News National Accused Islamic State supporter returned to Australia after six-year manhunt

Accused Islamic State supporter returned to Australia after six-year manhunt

Mohamed Zuhbi landed in Australia after eight years on the run. Photo: ABC
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A Sydney man accused of supporting ISIS terrorists in Syria has been returned to Australia and faces multiple charges after a six-year manhunt, the ABC reports.

Mohamed Zuhbi, 30, arrived in Melbourne late Saturday after being deported from Turkey where he spent 18 months in jail over his Islamic State connections.

He is wanted in Australia and the US for his alleged role with the terrorist group and is expected to be charged by  Australian Federal Police (AFP) with six terrorism-related offences from his seven years in Syria and Turkey.

The arrest was the culmination of Operation Pengersick, a six-year AFP investigation, according to Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney.

The AFP is expected to charge Zuhbi with engaging in hostilities in Syria, giving support to a terrorist organisation, and entering a declared area.

The other three charges relate to allegedly helping other people to fight in Syria, in other words being a recruiter for Islamic State.

“Australia works closely with our international security and law enforcement partners to support the management of terrorist threats offshore,” Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney told ABC.

“And as operations like this show, we are unwavering in our determination to see these cases through.

“We have a responsibility to prevent our citizens from contributing to violence and instability overseas.”

Zuhbi left Australia eight years ago and became involved in the Syrian civil war, allegedly serving as a guard, a bureaucrat, and a translator however police also suspect he was helping recruit fighters for IS.

The FBI has also accused him of helping two US citizens travel to Syria so they could join Islamic State which Zuhbi has previously denied.

Zuhbi is one of the very few Australians to have made it back home from the bloody Syrian war.

Most of some 200 Australians who lived under or fought for IS in the Middle East have either died or languish in dire conditions in detention camps and jails in Syria and Iraq.

Zuhbi claims he was working as an aid worker on the Syrian-Turkish border. Photo: ABC

After leaving Australia, Zuhbi claimed he was working as an aid worker with refugees on the Turkish-Syrian border between 2013 and 2015.

He then dropped off the radar for five years.

Last year the ABC revealed a Turkish court judgment that stated Zuhbi had confessed to joining Islamic State, allegedly joining the group and undergoing weeks of religious and military training.

However he did not remain committed to the Islamic State when the tide turned against it and paid smugglers to help him flee to Syria’s north-west.

-with ABC