Neil Prakash, an Australian recruiter for the Islamic State group (also called ISIS), was arrested somewhere in the Middle East after surviving drone attacks by the FBI, the New York Times reported Thursday. The 25-year-old, who was linked to militant plots in Australia and had appeared in several ISIS propaganda videos, was believed killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq in April.
According to the Times, which cited an unnamed senior American military official, Prakash was wounded in an airstrike earlier this year but survived. Another senior U.S. military official reportedly said the former Melbourne resident was arrested some time in the last few weeks by an unidentified Middle Eastern government.
Prakash, who converted to Islam from Buddhism and took the name Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, left Australia in 2013 and has been recruiting fighters for ISIS since then.
In May, Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne released a joint statement with Att. Gen. George Brandis, saying they had received reports from the U.S. government that Prakash had been killed.
“The Australian Government has been advised by the United States Government that Australian citizen and member of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, another acronym for ISIS), Neil Christopher Prakash, was killed by a US airstrike in Mosul, Iraq, on 29 April 2016,” the statement said. “Neil Prakash was a prominent ISIL member and a senior terrorist recruiter and attack facilitator. Prakash has been linked to several Australia-based attack plans and calls for lone-wolf attacks against the United States.
“He has appeared in ISIL propaganda videos and magazines and has actively recruited Australian men, women and children, and encouraged acts of terrorism. He is considered to be Australia’s most prominent ISIL recruiter,” the statement read.
In 2015, authorities alleged Prakash was communicating with a group of Melbourne men plotting an Anzac Day terrorist attack. Since then, Prakash has been wanted by Australian Federal Police for his alleged involvement in inciting a plot to behead a Victorian police officer on Anzac Day 2015. He was also intercepted talking to a 16-year-old boy from Auburn, in western Sydney. The teenage boy was arrested on Anzac Day this year after he allegedly met an undercover officer who he thought could sell him a gun.
Last year, Prakash became the third ISIS fighter from Australia to be included in the United Nations sanctions list after Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar. The U.N. sanctions list is aimed at blocking funds and support for terrorists, who can use the money to buy weapons or help new recruits reach Syria or Iraq.