|Sydney ISIS Boss Mohamad Ali Baryalei.|
A 7.30 investigation has uncovered Australia's most senior member of the Islamic State militant group, who authorities say has funnelled scores of Australian fighters onto the frontline of the wars in Syria and Iraq.
Australian authorities say 33-year-old jihadist Mohammad Ali Baryalei, from Sydney, has a trusted position in Islamic State (IS) operational command and has facilitated the recruitment of at least half of the 60 Australians currently fighting in the wars.
7.30 has been told Baryalei, an Afghan refugee and former Kings Cross nightclub bouncer, recruited a who's who of Australian IS fighters, including Khaled Sharrouf and and Mohamed Elomar, boys as young as 17, and at least seven Australians who would go on to be killed in Syria and Iraq.
Among them were 22-year-old former Gold Coast private schoolgirl Amira Karroum and her husband, dual Australian-US citizen Tyler Casey, who died side-by-side in the Syrian city of Aleppo last January.
|Tyler Casey and Amira Karroum (Both killed in Syria).|
Amira Karroum's death in a hail of bullets in Syria was a world away from the life of the beach-loving teenager who grew up in a wealthy family on the Gold Coast and went to a local Anglican girl's school.
"She was beautiful," said her grieving father Mohammed Karroum. "We had a house, a waterfront house, and she used to invite her friends and I used to make barbecues for them, barbecues, and she would be swimming, dancing. She goes to the nightclub with her sister, just having a good time like any ordinary girl."
Amira Karroum's life took a major turn in 2011 when she moved with her older sister to the suburb of Liverpool in Sydney's west to be closer to their Muslim relatives. There, the sisters began to embrace their Muslim identity. "They start to put the hijab [on] and they don't want to take it off and everything they do, they do by the Muslim law," Mr Karroum said.
"I said, no! And they can't get married if I said 'no'," Mr Karroum said. "Then my cousin came to me and he started talking to me: 'he's alright, he's beautiful person'. And they got married there and then – that day."
Tyler Casey was already a veteran of global jihad
|Tyler Casey and his white American mother.|
When Casey was 13, his mother took him to Colorado Springs in the US, where he became involved in gangs and petty crime. It was there he discovered and converted to Islam. "He went from being bad on the streets," Josiah Turnbull recalls. "The next day when I've seen him after he came back from the States, his whole life was changed. He was good, he didn’t get into trouble, he stayed away from things."
Australian authorities believe that during his time in the US, Casey began to associate with followers of senior Al Qaeda recruiter, Anwar al Awlaki, who was previously based in Colorado and later killed in Yemen. Authorities say he adopted the name Yusuf Ali and became an international emissary for Al Qaeda.
7.30 has learned the FBI and CIA were watching Casey from 2008. They report they have intelligence he received military training during trips to Yemen. Casey also travelled to South Africa and Egypt.
"[Tyler] went to Egypt a couple of times that I know, so something must've been keeping him to go back there," Josiah Turnbull said. "My father said he was there doing the training camps, training for war."
But it was back in Australia that Casey met a fellow jihadist who would emerge as a pivotal figure, drawing young Australians into Syria.
From Afghan refugee to IS facilitator
In Sydney, Casey became involved in the Street Dawah movement, a group of preachers devoted to converting Australians to Islam that counted Bilal Sayadi among its members. Mohammad Ali Baryalei was a leader of the group who would go on to seal Casey and Amira Karroum's fate in Syria.
Baryalei was from an aristocratic Afghan family who had come to Australia as refugees when he was a child. He worked as a security guard in Kings Cross and was an aspiring actor who had a fleeting appearance in the true-crime television series Underbelly.
But his true passion was his faith and in April 2013 police say he travelled to Syria to fight with Islamic militants. Authorities believe he has established himself as the most senior Australian member of Islamic State, involved in its operational command in Syria and Iraq as a key facilitator for Australians travelling to Syria and Iraq to fight.
|Tyler Casey and his handler Ali Baryalei in Sydney.|
"They (Tyler Casey and Amira) were going to go [to Syria] together, but he advised her not to, he went by himself," Mr Karroum said. Four days before Casey left Australia with three friends from the Street Dawah, police intercepted a phone call between Baryalei and his handler in Sydney.
"Four brothers coming this week – they are leaving Australia, going to try and get them by the weekend," the caller told Baryalei. "Abu Qaqa (Casey) is the tall one that was doing Dawah with you. The brothers yesterday, they were crying, affected, none of them wanted to stay in this country one second."
A month later, Casey and the other three men crossed the Turkish border into Syria. They were put through military training before Baryalei arranged their entry onto the battlefield with the Al Qaeda group, Jabhat al Nusrah.
Casey stayed in close contact with his half-brother from the frontline. He was showing me his ammunition or artillery he had," Josiah Turnbull said. "He had like two or three AK-47s, a few grenades, things like that. He was fighting for his religion, he was fighting for what he believed what was right. I was proud of him ... he's doing something that was making a difference."
Amira determined to join husband on the frontline
With money provided by her cousin Bilal Sayadi, Amira bought a ticket to Denmark. "She went to Denmark, she met these people from Somalia, man and a wife - and she went to Syria," Mr Karroum said.
When Amira arrived in the Syrian city of Aleppo to reunite with Casey, a fierce power struggle was raging with ISIS - now known as Islamic State - and the Al Qaeda group Jabhat Al Nusra, with which the Australians were aligned.
"She sent me a message: 'Please Dad, pray to Allah and ask him to forgive you for the days, for the years you have not prayed for him, death is around the corner Dad. I love you'," Mr Karroum said.
Just days after Amira's arrival in the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, she and Casey were ambushed and executed in a makeshift home they shared with the Somali couple. Australian authorities say the house was surrounded by IS militants wielding automatic weapons and Amira and her husband were killed in a blaze of gunfire.
Her father had a heart attack upon hearing the news, saying he received a call from Syria telling him his daughter's body had been dismembered and the Somali couple was buried alive. Australian authorities believe Amira Karroum and Tyler Casey were killed in a brutal takeover of the Australians' Jabhat Al Nusra contingent. Within days, their fellow Australian fighters had joined IS.
The disturbing footage emerged late on Sunday night featuring a room full of people bidding for items to raise money for the mosque. The terrorist group Islamic State's flag has been auctioned off for over $2000 at a mosque in Western Sydney.
Since then the video of the auction has been shared on social media and images of a teenager standing in front of the flag have been posted on Instagram. The teenage Muslim boy wears all black and and a headscarf around his face. The photograph is captioned with a chilling message 'going to kill Bashar al Assad now'.
Political leaders have spoken out in outrage over the auction of the flag at Liverpool’s Markaz Imam Ahmad mosque and youth centre. Premier Mike Baird told the Daily Telegraph that the government would not tolerate any action that gave comfort to terrorists.
'I note Islamic State is listed by the Commonwealth government as a terrorist organisation and that it is against the law to provide it with any support,' he said. 'We expect everyone in New South Wales to obey the law or face the consequences. All parents and all communities need to protect young people from the insidious and corrosive effects of the radical ideologies that are causing so much suffering around the world.'
Unfortunately New South Wales Police are unable to do anything about it as the objective of the auction was stated to raise money for the mosque. If the money was being used to fund a terrorist group it would only then constitute as a crime.
A new push for a change in laws may be on its way making it illegal to promote and incite terrorism.