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Man arrested on terror offences after raids in NSW town

The property in Young, NSW, being searched by the n Federal Police on Tuesday. Photo: Rebecca Hewson An AFP van at a property in Young where a man was arrested over foreign incursion offences. Photo: n Federal Police
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Police at the Young property. Photo: Nine News

Michael Keenan, Malcolm Turnbull and AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin address the media. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Turnbull said the arrest highlights the need for vigilance. Photo: Andrew Meares

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the alleged offence was “fairly sophisticated and well-planned”. Photo: Andrew Meares

Mr Zahab appears at Young court. Photo: Nine News

The extended family of an electrician who allegedly wanted to help the Islamic State with missile detection technology was already on the police radar for funding an arms racket linked to the terrorist group.

Haisem Zahab was arrested on Tuesday at his property in Young in NSW’s south-west, for allegedly attempting to research and design a laser warning device and missiles for IS over the internet.

The 42-year-old had been under investigation for 18 months as part of the n Federal Police’s Operation Marksburg.

The operation, focusing on the extended Zahab family, involved seizing $530,000 from the sale of a Condell Park home last year split into several accounts and travel debit cards belonging to four family members.

The home owner and Mr Zahab’s cousin, Hicham Zahab, didn’t fight the AFP’s proceeds of crime proceedings as he had fled to Syria with his wife, son and daughter-in-law. He is wanted by the Kuwaiti government for his suspected involvement in the Islamic State arms smuggling cell.

The AFP allege the money from the sale was going to be used to fund an Islamic State arms racket.

About half of the money from the sale was seized with the rest believed to have already been sent to the Middle East.

In its latest annual report, the AFP said Operation Marksburg was an investigation “into a family based in New South Wales that was suspected of travelling to Syria to become members of, and provide support to, Islamic State”

“At the start of the investigation it was identified that family members had access to a significant amount of funds in an n bank account and were suspected of using international travel cards and a computer consulting company based in the Middle East to remit funds out of for the use and benefit of Islamic State in Syria,” the report stated.

“These funds were acquired from the sale of their former family residence located in Sydney.”

Mr Zahab did not apply for bail when he appeared before Young Local Court on Tuesday afternoon and it was formally refused. He will face court in Parramatta on March 8.

He is charged with serious foreign incursion offences which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said Mr Zahab allegedly used the internet to research and design a laser warning device to help warn against incoming missiles used by coalition forces in Syria and Iraq.

“We will also allege that he has been researching, designing and modelling systems to assist ISIL’s efforts to develop their own long-range guided missile capabilities,” he said.

Mr Colvin said the alleged advice given by the “technically-trained” man was “fairly sophisticated and well-planned”.

“We will be alleging that the material that he was intending to provide to ISIL, the research he was doing, was credible,” he said.

Dozens of officers descended on his semi-rural property in Cherry Vale Place early on Tuesday morning to execute search warrants before he was arrested. It is alleged Mr Zahab acted alone and no further arrests are expected.

Some officers were seen to use metal detectors to search the ground at his home. Others dug into the ground with picks while a NSW Police officer from the dog squad stood nearby.

The electrician divided his time between Young and Sydney, where it is understood he had a business in the past that designed and installed solar panels.

Business records show the 42-year-old was the director of a company called Switch2Green, which was based in the Sydney suburb of Yagoona before it was de-registered in 2013.

Mr Zahab then registered another business, Oz Survival Gear, in November 2013. It sells knives, multi-tools and flashlights online from his home in Young. The AFP has arrested a man in NSW in relation to alleged terrorism offences. More details soon. #[email protected]— Michael Keenan MP (@MichaelKeenanMP) February 28, 2017

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the arrest of Mr Zahab highlighted a need for ns to remain vigilant.

“This highlights that terrorism, support for terrorist groups and Islamist extremism is not limited to our major cities,” he told a briefing at Parliament House in Canberra.

“This is yet another example of the excellent work the men and women of the n Federal Police and all our security agencies are doing in identifying and disrupting alleged assistance to ISIL.” with The Young Witness

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