SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Security forces in Australia have launched anti-terror raids across Melbourne and arrested a 23-year-old man who met an American citizen via social media and sponsored the person to fight with jihadists in Syria.
More than 100 police officers raided seven properties at 6.45am following a tip-off from the FBI.
The raids came just two weeks after the nation’s largest counter-terrorism operation exposed an Islamic State-linked plot to conduct filmed beheadings in Sydney.
Police said the morning raids in Melbourne all centred on Hassan El Sabsabi, 23, who was arrested and charged with providing £6,500 [$AUS12,000] to two jihadist groups, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and Jabhat al-Nusra, and was planning to send over further funds.
Mr El Sabsabi is reportedly married and works at a pizza shop in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine.
Herve Du Buisson Perrine, a neighbour, said he believed Mr El Sabsabi’s family were from Lebanon.
“I am surprised, very very surprised,” he told The Age. “He is a very nice person, he seems a very nice person to me.”
Mr El Sabsabi allegedly transferred money between March 1 and August 11 to fund a United States citizen to fly to Syria and fight there for several months.
Police said the pair met via social media and it was believed to be the first time that “someone has sponsored someone to go and fight”.
“There is no information or intelligence to indicate that this man [Mr El Sabsabi] was involved in planning an attack,” said assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan, from the Australian Federal Police.
“We have gone early today as we are of the view that funds were about to be transferred to this person in Syria.
“This is the first time in a terrorism environment that we’re aware that an Australian citizen has sponsored or paid for a citizen of another country to go into Syria or Iraq to fight.”
More than 60 Australians are believed to be fighting with jihadists in Iraq and Syria and a further 100 have been supporting them from home.
Police said the latest raids were not linked to the earlier operation or to the shooting in Melbourne last week of Numan Haider, an 18-year-old jihadist who allegedly planned to behead two policemen.
Prosecutors told a court in Melbourne that police had 25,000 pages of evidence, mainly from social media, as well as transcripts of more than 500 intercepted phone calls and messages.
Trieu Huynh, Mr El Sabsabi’s lawyer, said his client had not been jailed previously but was not applying for bail.
More than 100 heavily armed officers from state and federal forces took part in the raids, aided by sniffer dogs and helicopters.
Police said Mr El Sabsabi had been under surveillance for eight months following a tip-off from the FBI.
Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, lifted the national terror threat level for the first time earlier this month amid concerns about the threat from Australian jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria.