The New Daily has obtained exclusive information about the identity of Australia’s highest ranked member of the Islamic State, a Brisbane man renowned for his violence, his combat expertise and as the leader of a special unit of foreign and Arabic fighters.
The Australian fights under the codename Abu Mus’ab. His real name could be Hamoud al Walaafi, according to sources inside Islamic State (IS).
These confidential sources put themselves in danger to provide The New Daily with transcripts of conversations between IS fighters that reveal the Australian’s identity, history and reputation as a “cold blooded killer”. Such is Walaafi’s notoriety within the terrorist group that he was feared even by the likes of Neil Prakash, the notorious Australian IS recruiter now thought dead.
Walaafi is believed to have lived in Brisbane before moving to Melbourne. In one of the transcripts, the source indicated they had met Walaafi at a community centre in Melbourne’s north. It is understood his family is now in Lebanon.
The New Daily understands Walaafi was an associate of Khaled Sharrouf, the man who was pictured with his son holding a severed head. While they maintained contact in Syria, Walaafi was moved because he was a high-value target and it was dangerous for him there.
He holds a position in the terror group higher than Sharrouf and Prakash, and was described in documents seen by The New Daily as “a calculated killer”. He may be as senior as Omar al-Shishani, an IS commander, and Abu Waheeb, another leader.
“He is not the same person you met, he is a murderer now,” Neil Prakash was told when he asked a question about Walaafi to someone inside IS.
His role inside IS
According to statements by Prakash, Walaafi is of Lebanese descent and is in charge of a special unit of foreign and Arabic fighters which has gained prestige within IS ranks.
Walaafi rose to his spot as the top Australian jihadi due to his combat expertise and knowledge, as well as his merciless tactics, but it is unknown if he has a military background. Sources within IS indicated that his unit operates in Syria around Hasakah and Deir ez-Zur outside of Al-Raqqa, IS’ de-facto capital.
Sayf al-Australi, believed to be another Australian recruiter for IS, and who was in Mosul and using StateLife007 as a username via messaging applications, said Walaafi “is a dangerous man and in charge of a special unit inside dawla (Arabic for ‘state’) because of his knowledge of combat”.
Numerous attempts were made to get into contact with Walaafi, however many of the Australian jihadi sources said it was difficult to reach him without putting themselves in danger.
“He is hard to get into contact with and is dealing with other pressing matters for dawlah,” Sayf al-Australi said in transcripts given to The New Daily.
News of Walaafi first emerged after an IS contact in charge of hijrah (travel to Syria and Iraq) told of his existence. The IS contact met the Australian jihadi after she was put in charge of finding him a wife in Lebanon.
“He is looking for a wife. But he is a high leader in dawlah and I cannot say anymore because it is dangerous to do so,” she said.
The New Daily contacted the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) about Walaafi, but a spokesman would only comment on the number of Australians operating in IS controlled areas.
“ASIO is confident in the numbers stated by the Director-General of Security at Senate Estimates in February 2016, noting the Australian government’s capacity to confirm the presence of Australians in either Syria or Iraq is extremely limited. Due to the extremely dangerous security situation, consular assistance is no longer available in Syria,” the spokesman said.
According to the Australian government there are 110 active fighters who have fought or are fighting with IS or other extremist groups, but a New York think tank estimates this number to be as high 255.
Armando Cordoba is an independent journalist who focuses on terrorism coverage and has worked in conflict zones throughout the Middle East. He currently lives in Melbourne.