Radical group is targeting local youth

Cameron Houston [and] David Wroe

Several senior Muslim figures have reported concerns to the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police about al-Furqan and its recruitment of alienated young men in Melbourne’s south--eastern suburbs.

According to one Muslim leader, the radical Islamic centre targeted disaffected young men at Hallam mosque, where they often held meetings on Sundays and extolled the virtues of jihad.

“They say you can’t watch television, you can’t listen to music, and the women must cover their faces. They change their minds, they change the culture of these young people. We are concerned about our community and it is dangerous for Australia,” the Muslim leader said.

Al-Furqan also attempted to recruit new members from local gymnasiums and Islamic bookshops, according to the source, who first raised concerns with law enforcement agencies almost three years ago.

He said few people in Melbourne’s Muslim community were willing to speak publicly about the controversial group, amid fears of reprisal attacks in Melbourne and against family members in the Middle East.

“Please don’t mention my name: these people will come for me if you do,” he said.

The brewing worry from leaders about losing disaffected young men to radicalisation comes amid new information on young terror suspect Numan Haider, 18, who was shot dead after stabbing two policemen in Endeavour Hills on Tuesday [23 September] night.

A senior security source said Mr Haider had recently applied for a new passport, indicating he planned to travel overseas.

Fairfax Media has been told Numan Haider’s passport had already expired when ASIO put a cancellation notice on the passport amid fears he meant to go to Syria or Iraq to fight with extremists.

While Mr Haider’s terrorism links were of growing concern to authorities, there appear to have been triggers in the immediate lead-up to the fatal meeting outside the police station on Tuesday night.

One of these is believed to have been the discovery that his passport was cancelled when he went to apply for a new one.

Mr Haider’s room was also reportedly searched by police on the day of his death.

One security source said he ap-peared to have flown into a “murderous rage” on the evening of the attack.

He was known to have been in touch with Australian followers of the Islamic State group who are fighting in the Middle East. These may have included the notorious Khaled Sharrouf, who made world headlines when he had his young son pose for a photo with a severed head in Syria.

One Australian fighter in Syria with Islamic State who goes by the name of Abu Khaled al-Cambodi - a reference to his Cambodian ancestry - took to Twitter to praise Mr Haider.

“May Allah Swt accept my dear brother Nouman efforts!” he wrote. “He strived hard for Hijrah [migration], was stopped but still he rushed towards what he wanted!”

Fairfax Media also understands that monitoring of Mr Haider’s internet surfing showed he had searched for Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s travel plans in Victoria but that there was no concrete threat to the Prime Minister or other political leaders. Mr Haider had also searched for information on previous high-profile terrorism plots in Australia, such as the conspiracy to attack Holsworthy Army barracks in Sydney.

An Afghan Endeavour Hills resident whose house was raided as part of counter-terrorism operations in 2012, because he prayed at the al-Furqan Islamic Information Centre in Springvale, said he was not surprised Mr Haider was linked to the same centre.

He said a Muslim friend with whom he had attended secondary school in Dandenong changed dramatically after regularly attending the prayer and lecture sessions at the centre.

“He used to be one of the boys, liked to drink, smoke, go out,” the man, who did not wish to be named, said. “A couple of years later I saw him and he had been growing his beard and saying things like that music was [forbidden]. It was definitely because of al-Furqan, he never went anywhere else.”

Police confirmed new information on Thursday [25 September] that Mr Haider had “face-to-face” conversations with several other people shortly before the attack with investigators, still determining whether others were waiting for him or had dropped him off.

Friends of the former Lyndale Secondary College student painted a different picture of the young Afghan.

Chris Owen, 19, knew Mr Haider through mutual friends who met at Narre Warren’s Fountain Gate shopping centre last year.

Mr Owen said Mr Haider appeared deeply devoted to his family and his faith, but “didn’t seem like he was an extremist”.

“He was a good dude, a really nice guy. He would always greet me with a handshake and a smile,” Mr Owen said.

“What’s going through the grapevine is he was getting a hard time from police and lost his passport be-cause a mosque he was going to that was
under suspicion. Although I can’t forgive his actions, it seems like he was oppressed.”

Mr Haider’s family home, about five minutes’ drive from the scene of his death, continued to be a meeting place for his relatives and friends on Thursday who came laden with home-cooked meals.

With Tammy Mills, Nino Bucci, Nick Toscano and Yolanda Redrup

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/concerns-of-recruitment-to-radical-gro...