The Australian government has revoked the citizenship of a Melbourne-born man believed to be a top recruiter for the Islamic State group, Reuters reported on Saturday. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said 27-year-old Neil Prakash had been central to the jihadist group’s recruitment efforts and had had his citizenship stripped as he was “a very dangerous individual”. Prakash continues to hold the Fijian citizenship.
“If given the opportunity, Mr Prakash would harm or kill Australians and our country is a safer place for him having lost his Australian citizenship,” Dutton said at a press conference in Sydney on Saturday.
Prakash left for Syria in 2013, taking the name Abu Khaled al-Cambodi. He was mistakenly reported to have been killed in an air strike by the United States in Iraq’s Mosul in 2015. He was caught in Turkey in October 2016 and has since been in prison there, facing multiple terrorism-related charges. He is wanted in Australia over terrorism-related activities, including an alleged conspiracy to behead a police officer.
Dutton said the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation had prevented 14 attempted terror attacks, including a plan to smuggle explosives onto an A380 flight to West Asia. “The threat is very real,” he said. “The priority for us is to make sure that people like Neil Prakash don’t come back to Australia. We don’t want them here.”
Prakash, whose mother was Cambodian and father a Fijian, held both Australian and Fijian citizenship through his father. Prakash was informed about the government’s decision on December 21, making him the 12th dual citizen to have their citizenship annulled over alleged links with offshore terror groups, The Guardian reported.
“Dual citizens who choose to be involved in terrorism forfeit the privileges of Australian citizenship, and I remain committed to enforcing the legal provisions that remove them,” Dutton said.
The country had cancelled Prakash’s passport in 2014 and announced financial sanctions the next year. While Prakash has previously admitted to being a member of the Islamic State group, he said he had no affiliations with it in Australia.