Turkey sends back first Aussie ‘jihadi’
Six years ago, a cocky Australian calling himself “Ahmed Shaheed” started writing about killing people in Syria, urging people in the West do “operations” and shared how he’d once wanted to kidnap Japanese journalists for ransom.
He’d been careful about being identified. Photos were blurred or pixelated, videos were shot from behind or cropped and he was sparing about revealing any personal details.
Now, after years of painstaking work, authorities allege that the man behind the account is a former Queensland man, Agim Ajazi, who on the weekend became the first accused Australian fighter to be deported by Turkey.
The 30-year-old was flown in secret into Adelaide – via Denpasar – on Sunday. Only once he entered Australia did Turkey reveal the deportation of an Australian suspected of being a “foreign terrorist fighter”.
Mr Ajazi was held for a night before appearing in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Monday, via videolink, to hear that he was to be extradited to Queensland to face charges over his alleged membership of an al-Qa’ida affiliate as well as foreign incursion offences and advocating terrorism.
It’s been a long time since he was last in his home state.
The Australian has monitored the accounts held by “Ahmed Shaheed” (Ahmed the martyr) since January 2014, when he’d already been on Facebook for four months and had declared himself a member of al-Qa’ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.
“This is a fake Facebook created buy (sic) a mujahid in syria from Australia,” Shaheed posted in September 2013. “I will be posting thoughts, experiences, photos, a little info of operations inshallah (God willing).”
He also falsely claimed to be a former student of Bond University on the Gold Coast.
But Shaheed posted in detail about being in the Syrian cities of Latakia and Aleppo, and of going on “operations” in Idlib province.
In July 2014, he shared a photo of a man, whose head is out of shot, holding what appears to be the trigger for a bomb with the caption: “On my way to Australia”.
At least one account in the name Ahmed Shaheed still exists. On Twitter, there have been no posts on the account since September 2017, but according to a tweet written a month earlier he had been in Idlib city, in northwestern Syria.
Authorities have been tight-lipped about how Mr Ajazi came into Turkish custody.
In one early Facebook post, “Shaheed” told the story of how local Syrian villagers put an end to alleged plans to kidnap Japanese journalists for ransom.
“As we started talking about kidnapping them an ansari (local) quickly came to the car and made it clear they were with him,” Shaheed said post in October 2013. “Couldn’t help but wonder how much the Japanese government would have paid for there (sic) release.”
In September 2013, he posted a photo of an AK74 rifle, known as a Krinkov, to Facebook, telling one person: “I bought it from someone who took it from a filthy Kaffir (disbeliever).”
Less than a year later, Shaheed was calling for “operations” in the west – including to “take vips hostage and start demanding the release of our imprisoned brothers and sisters to be handed over to the mujahideen”.
“Doing operations in the west is the ultimate form of jihad, your (sic) hitting the enemies of Allah in there (sic) own land. They wanna centralize the war on Muslims (so) do the opposite.”
There were videos shared that purportedly show Shaheed shooting assault rifles that were claimed to have been seized from US-trained fighters in battle, and a bizarre claim that a zookeeper had offered to sell him one of his animals.
“These are the choices if I can bribe the zoo keeper: eagle, owl, lioness, bear, hiena (sic), tiger, dingo and lepord (sic). (Which) should I choose?” Shaheed wrote in February 2015.
A month later, he posted a photo of himself cradling a tiger cub and wrote: “Say hello to my new baby, i named him fluffy.”
But there are many posts from Shaheed describing battles and fighting.
In September 2016, Shaheed tweeted: “I seen a bro trying to shoot at a suhkoi (Russian-made jet) yesterday in the middle of battle with a PK (machine gun) had to have been one of the funniest moments in sham.”
In the same month, he tweeted: “Getting hit by the good old inaccurate Mig23, been along time since you last showed up on the battlefield, oh how I’ve missed you”
In April 2015, he posted: “Winter finished= fighting season … 2015 is going to go off inshallah.”
Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton confirmed Mr Ajazi’s arrest related to “a number of terrorism offences” following his deportation from Turkey.
“Today, an Adelaide court granted an order which allows for the man to be extradited to Queensland where he will face a number of terrorism related offences,” Mr Dutton’s office said in a statement.
“It will be alleged the man was a member of the proscribed terrorist organisation Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) and engaged in hostile activities against a foreign government.
“The offences are very serious and, if found guilty, carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.”
A spokesman for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions confirmed Mr Ajazi’s arrest warrant alleges he engaged in a hostile activity in a foreign state and country, was a member of a terrorist organisation, provided support to a terror group and advocated terrorism.
The announcement comes weeks after The Australian revealed Turkey planned to deport as many as three captured fighters to Australia, with Turkish ambassador Korhan Karakoc calling on Canberra to assist with their return.
“Turkey, at this stage, is not in a position to take a unilateral step because we have to co-ordinate, at the end of the day,” Mr Karakoc said last month.
“It really requires some formalities. The Australian side should be willing to accept them.
“We certainly want to send them away so you can handle them here in their country. But it would take some time.”
Mr Ajazi is expected to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court in the coming days.