A Melbourne man has been charged for allegedly bankrolling a US man who joined terrorists in Syria.
A man allegedly bankrolled a US citizen to join terrorist fighters in Syria in the first case of its kind in Australia, which came to the notice of authorities after a FBI tip-off.
Hassan El Sabsabi, 23, was believed to be on the verge of making another payment when he was arrested during one of a number of dawn raids by police across Melbourne on Tuesday and charged with financing terrorism.
He allegedly provided funds to the terrorist organisations ISIL, also known as Islamic State, and Jabhat al-Nusra.
El Sabsabi had been under surveillance for eight months after his online activities attracted the FBI’s attention.
“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,” AFP national manager counter terrorism Neil Gaughan told reporters.
Police further allege the man had provided about $12,000 in funds to support a US citizen currently fighting in Syria.
“We were of the view that further funds were about to be transferred,” Mr Gaughan said.
Police believe El Sabsabi acted alone and wasn’t planning an attack on Australian soil.
He had no family relationship to the fighter he was allegedly financially supporting and apparently met online.
Electronic evidence was seized during the raids involving more than 100 officers targeting El Sabsabi’s Seabrook home and six other properties across suburban Melbourne.
Victoria Police deputy commissioner Graham Ashton said the operation was “low key” compared to the counter-terrorism raids in Sydney and Brisbane almost two weeks ago because there was no imminent public threat.
The raids did not uncover any weapons or explosives in the seven homes, and no other people are suspected of wrongdoing.
Mr Ashton also ruled out any link to the case of 18-year-old terror suspect Numan Haider, who was fatally shot after he stabbed two officers outside the Endeavour Hills police station last week.
His grieving family has since received death threats.
“This is an innocent family,” Mr Ashton said in a call for community restraint.
“I think the fact they received those deaths threats last week is very disappointing.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said authorities would target people suspected of funding terrorism.
“Anyone who supports terrorists is complicit in the dreadful deeds they do,” he told parliament on Tuesday.
El Sabsabi briefly appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, where a prosecution lawyer said police had amassed more than 25,000 social media web pages and 500 intercepted phone calls and texts.
He is charged with six counts of intentionally making funds available to a known terrorist group.
In charge sheets lodged with the court, federal police allege that in March this year El Sabsabi made funds available to ISIL.
Police also allege that between March and August, he made funds available to Jabhat al-Nusra.
The funds were allegedly provided at a number of locations in Melbourne’s western and northern suburbs.
There was no application for bail and he was remanded to reappear in the court on February 3.