Neil Prakash

Neil Prakash, also known as Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, is a U.S.- and U.N.-designated Australian recruiter and facilitator for ISIS.“Treasury Designates Australian and Southeast Asian ISIL Operatives and Leaders,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 10, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0698.aspx;
“Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 Listing 2015 (No. 2),” United Nations via Commonwealth of Australia, June 4, 2015, https://www.dropbox.com/s/knbydc3mjwihlka/C2015G00866%20-%20Charter%20of%20the%20United%20Nations%20Act%201945%20Listing%202015%20(No.%202).pdf?dl=0.
He was erroneously reported killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq in April 2016.David Wroe, “Islamic State recruiter Neil Prakash killed by US strike in Iraq,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 5, 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/national/islamic-state-recruiter-neil-prakash-killed-by-us-strike-in-iraq-20160504-gomjgh.html. In November 2016, he was arrested in Turkey after leaving ISIS-controlled territory the month prior.Chiara Palazzo, “Australia's most wanted jihadist Neil Prakash arrested in the Middle East,” Telegraph (London), November 25, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/25/australias-wanted-jihadist-neil-prakash-arrested-middle-east/;
Charles Miranda, “Australian ISIS recruiter Neil Prakash ‘survived’ air strike, was ‘wounded’ and has since been ‘arrested,’” News.com.au, November 26, 2016, http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/australian-isis-recruiter-neil-prakash-survived-air-strike-was-wounded-and-has-since-been-arrested/news-story/5822f8bab2aaa2737b7a754b70d3de34.
The Turkish government rejected Australia’s extradition request and a Turkish court sentenced Prakash to seven-and-a-half years in prison in March 2019.Eric Tlozek, “Australian Islamic State recruiter Neil Prakash sentenced to jail in Turkey,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, March 15, 2019, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-16/neil-prakash-sentenced-to-jail-in-turkey/10907510. He has admitted to being an ISIS member, but denied any link to ISIS activity in Australia.Australian Associated Press, “Australian ISIS fighter Neil Prakash’s extradition decision deferred until May,” The Guardian, February 20, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/21/australian-isis-fighter-neil-prakashs-extradition-decision-deferred-until-may; Australian Associated Press, “Neil Prakash tells Turkish court he has no links to Islamic State in Australia,” The Guardian, December 27, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/27/neil-prakash-tells-turkish-court-he-has-no-links-to-islamic-state-in-australia.

Following Prakash’s arrest, some Australian media outlets suggested that ISIS had sent Prakash to Turkey in order to fight for the terror group there. The reports alleged that Prakash had led an English-speaking cell of engineers that was developing drones for use in attacks.News Corp Australia, “Australian terrorist Neil Prakash plotting remote drone attack,” Daily Telegraph (Surry Hills), December 15, 2016, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/world/australian-terrorist-neil-prakash-plotting-remote-drone-attack/news-story/6312cdb2f5937a5a528671ff7b93b4d4. However, other Australian outlets later said that Prakash traveled to Turkey in order to escape ISIS’s crackdown on members who wanted to leave ahead of an offensive by Iraqi and Kurdish forces.Mark Schliebs, “Terrorist recruiter Neil Prakash did dash as IS noose tightened,” Australian (Sydney), January 3, 2017, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/foreign-affairs/terrorist-recruiter-neil-prakash-did-dash-as-is-noose-tightened/news-story/b78909455fc1ca5300ad91c9b4dcdeef/.

Turkey charged Prakash with “being a member of, and acting on behalf of an armed terrorist organization.”Burcak Belli, “‘Sorry’ terror suspect Neil Prakash says Islamic State lied to him about Islam,” Sydney Morning Herald, September 28, 2017, https://www.smh.com.au/national/sorry-terror-suspect-neil-prakash-says-is-lied-to-him-about-islam-20170928-gyqz91.html. Prakash issued an apology during a September 2017 appearance in a Turkish court. He took partial responsibility for radicalizing others but claimed ISIS had lied to him. Prakash told the court he had been new to Islam when he joined ISIS and the terror group had mislead him. Prakash apologized for the “trouble I have caused the world.”Burcak Belli, “‘Sorry’ terror suspect Neil Prakash says Islamic State lied to him about Islam,” Sydney Morning Herald, September 28, 2017, https://www.smh.com.au/national/sorry-terror-suspect-neil-prakash-says-is-lied-to-him-about-islam-20170928-gyqz91.html. Turkey rejected an Australian extradition request for Prakash in July 2018. Australia revoked Prakash’s citizenship that December.“Neil Prakash: Australian jihadist stripped of citizenship,” BBC News, December 29, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-46706710. The Australian government based its decision on the belief Prakash would not be left stateless because he held citizenship in Fiji through his Fijian father. Fiji denied Prakash had citizenship in January 2019, but the Australian government insisted on its interpretation.Helen Davidson and Amy Remeikis, “Neil Prakash ‘not a Fiji citizen’: Dutton move to strip Australian citizenship in doubt,” Guardian (London), January 2, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jan/02/neil-prakash-not-a-fiji-citizen-dutton-move-to-strip-australian-citizenship-in-doubt. On March 15, 2019, the criminal court in Kilis, Turkey, convicted Prakash of belonging to a terror group and sentenced him to seven-and-a-half years in prison. Prakash’s lawyer indicated they would appeal for a reduced sentence based on Prakash’s show of remorse.Eric Tlozek, “Australian Islamic State recruiter Neil Prakash sentenced to jail in Turkey,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, March 15, 2019, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-16/neil-prakash-sentenced-to-jail-in-turkey/10907510. In July 2019, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry argued that Prakash’s Australian citizenship should be reinstated because he would be more dangerous abroad than if he were imprisoned in Australia.Mark Schliebs, “A free Prakash will threaten Australia,” The Australian (New South Wales), July 1, 2019, https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/a-free-prakash-will-threaten-australia/news-story/1b13d56298cd2bfa11b4d6c3a0ee569d.

The Australian-born Prakash is the son of a Fijian father and a Cambodian mother. As of 2012, he was a practicing Buddhist but claimed to believe in a singular god. That year, Prakash made his first visit to Cambodia and reportedly found the Cambodian stream of Buddhism confusing. He abandoned Buddhism upon his return to Australia and sought to convert to Islam. Prakash converted at a local mosque where he also met Bosnian extremist Harun Mehicevic. Mehicevic and others radicalized Prakash during the latter’s visits to Melbourne’s Al Furqan Islamic Centre and bookshop. In 2013, Prakash traveled via Malaysia to Raqqa, Syria, which he referred to as “the land of jihad.”“Neil Prakash: The confused Buddhist who became a top IS jihadist,” BBC News, November 25, 2016, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-38103439. Upon his arrival, Prakash met an ISIS fighter who furthered his Islamic education.“Neil Prakash: The confused Buddhist who became a top IS jihadist,” BBC News, November 25, 2016, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-38103439. Prakash went on to become a prolific online propagandist for ISIS.

CEP long tracked Prakash on various online platforms as he has worked to recruit Muslims to ISIS-held territory and incite them to violence domestically. Although some companies made an intermittent effort to ban Prakash from their platforms, Prakash was resilient in maintaining his online presence. In August 2015, Australian counter-terrorism authorities issued a warrant for Prakash’s arrest, and scheduled Prakash to be placed on Interpol’s wanted list.Carly Crawford, “Warrant issued for Islamic State recruiter Neil Prakash,” Herald Sun (Victoria), August 19, http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/warrant-issued-for-islamic-state-recruiter-neil-prakash/story-fni0fiyv-1227490609495. The day after the arrest warrant was issued, Prakash’s @AbuK313 Twitter account was suspended, but he began posting under the handle @FatherOfKhalid. From ISIS-held territory, Prakash stands accused of directing the alleged April 25, 2015, Anzac Day plot, in which a group of Australians are accused of plotting domestic terror attacks on the day commemorating fallen soldiers in World War II.Lizzie Dearden, “Anzac Day terror plot: Five teenagers arrested in Australia for ‘planning Isis-inspired attack,’” Independent (London), April 18, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/anzac-day-terror-plot-five-teenagers-arrested-in-australia-for-planning-isisinspired-attack-10186419.html.

Prakash’s Twitter profile in September 2015. The account description references “Migration Matters,” presumably referring to migration to ISIS-held territory. The account also references his linked account on Surespot (a private messaging service), and Askbook (an interactive social media site). Prakash listed two Surespot accounts that a viewer could message if that viewer was interested in “migration.” These accounts consisted of his own Surespot account and one associated with the British ISIS recruiter Raphael Hostey.

On August 30, 2015, Prakash tweeted a message inciting Muslims to violence against “kuffar,” a pejorative term for non-Muslims.

Prakash was active under the Twitter handle @FatherOfKhalid in August 2015. Two days after this tweet was posted, Australian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Prakash.

In order to recruit and propagandize for ISIS, Prakash has long maintained a presence on Twitter, as well as on Q&A social media platform Askbook. Supplementing his public image, Prakash has directed viewers on these platforms to his private messaging account for one-on-one discussion.Abuk, Askbook post, July 8, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59923179; Abuk, Askbook post, July 2, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59823039; Abuk, Askbook post, July 2, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59822883. He has also directed viewers to the accounts of his ISIS recruiter cohorts, which have included deceased British recruiter for ISIS Raphael Hostey (Abu Qaqa),Abuk, Askbook post, July 2, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59822661. Nasser Muthana, and Abu Dujana.Abu Khaled the Australian, Twitter post, June 10, 2015, 2:01 p.m., https://twitter.com/Ak47zNeedLove/status/608695540247883776. Like Prakash, the other recruiters in Prakash’s network have used a combination of social media and private messaging accounts in order to attract—and ultimately bring—foreigners to ISIS-held territory.

Prakash publicizes the account of fellow ISIS fighter Nasser Muthana.

Prakash touts his role as a facilitator who works to bring recruits to ISIS-held territory.

Prakash fields answers about the migration process to ISIS territory, and encourages recruits to contact him through encrypted messaging services.

Prakash has employed a variety of tools to entice recruits online. These include answering questions about his supposed daily life,Abuk, Askbook, accessed July 8, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus. propagating extremist and violent interpretations of religious texts,Abuk, Askbook post, July 2, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59810457. and even flirting with female recruits.Abuk, Askbook post, July 3, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59837776; Abuk, Askbook post, July 8, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59917803. In response to the question, “Are you taken?” for example, Prakash replied coyly that “Allah allows us to have up to 4 wives.”Abuk, Askbook post, July 3, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59837776.

Prakash engages with potential ISIS recruits, July 2015.

For logistical questions regarding the migration process to ISIS-held territory, Prakash has asked viewers to contact him or his cohorts via private messaging services.Abuk, Askbook post, July 8, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59923179; Abuk, Askbook post, July 2, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59823039; Abuk, Askbook post, July 2, 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/59822883. These messaging services have included Surespot, Telegram, Wickr, and Jitsi, among others.Abuk, Askbook post, July 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/60074403;
Abuk, Askbook post, August 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/60102790;
Abuk, Asbook post, August 2015, http://ask-book.com/ak47zRus/answer/60426475.




In addition to recruiting via social media, Prakash served as a public face for the group, appearing in the ISIS video, “Stories from the Land of the Living: the Story of Abu Khaled al-Cambodi from Australia.” In the video, Prakash discussed his conversion process from Buddhism to Islam, and his hijrah (migration) process from Australia to ISIS territory.“New Islamic State video: The story of Abu Khaled Al-Cambodi from Australia,” LiveLeak, accessed July 8, 2015, http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=6b5_1429653638. He also called on Muslims, particularly in Australia, to either join ISIS or execute domestic attacks.“New Islamic State video: The story of Abu Khaled Al-Cambodi from Australia,” LiveLeak, accessed July 8, 2015, http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=6b5_1429653638. In September 2015, Australian ­intelligence officials said that they were “highly confident” that Neil Prakash was being targeted for assassination by the U.S. military.Paul Maley, “Islamic State: Aussie jihadist Neil Prakash on US hit list,” Australian, September 2, 2015, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/terror/aussie-jihadist-neil-prakash-on-us-hit-list/news-story/95aa4dcbf651d374ff7629df33b42159. In May 2015, ISIS published a guidebook naming Prakash as one of the group’s top recruiters and facilitators.“Australian listed in Isis guidebook as go-to man for recruits,” Guardian(London), May 7, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/07/australian-listed-in-isis-guidebook-as-go-to-man-for-recruits; “Australian listed in Isis guidebook as go-to man for recruits,” Guardian (London), May 7, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/07/australian-listed-in-isis-guidebook-as-go-to-man-for-recruits. Prakash, however, says he was just a foot soldier, “I was just a normal soldier, I had nothing to with leadership or anything.”Farid Farid, “Islamic State leader Neil Prakash says he was ‘just a normal soldier,’” The Sydney Morning Herald, May 24, 2018, https://www.smh.com.au/world/middle-east/islamic-state-leader-neil-prakash-says-he-was-just-a-normal-soldier-20180524-p4zhc8.html.

 
United States

January 10, 2017

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Neil Christopher Prakash” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224.“Treasury Designates Australian and Southeast Asian ISIL Operatives and Leaders,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 10, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0698.aspx.

Australia

June 2015

The Australian government designated Neil Prakash for his role as a terrorist recruiter and propagandist.“Counter-terrorism related sanctions listing,” Minister for Foreign Affairs, June 5, 2015, http://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2015/jb_mr_150604.aspx.

United Nations

June 4, 2015

The United Nations imposed sanctions against Neil Prakash.“Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 Listing 2015 (No. 2),” United Nations via Commonwealth of Australia, June 4, 2015, https://www.dropbox.com/s/knbydc3mjwihlka/C2015G00866%20-%20Charter%20of%20the%20United%20Nations%20Act%201945%20Listing%202015%20(No.%202).pdf?dl=0.

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