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Mavi Marmara passenger arrested on terrorist charges

Apr 1, 2021 | Naomi Levin

Australian Federal Police arrest Ahmed Talib in Melbourne on March 25. 
Photo: Supplied/AFP
Australian Federal Police arrest Ahmed Talib in Melbourne on March 25. Photo: Supplied/AFP

A Melbourne man arrested in March for alleged involvement in jihadist terrorism has a history of extreme activity, including involvement in a violent attempt to breach Israel’s legal blockade of Gaza.

While significant attention has shifted to the threat posed by extreme right wing terrorism in Australia, the arrest of Ahmed Luqman Talib, and his co-accused Gabriel Crazzi, underlines the need to remain vigilant against the ongoing threat from adherents to violent Islamist ideologies.

Talib, 31, is accused of assisting an individual to engage in hostile activities in a foreign state.

Talib and Crazzi are alleged to have an association with Jabhat al-Nusra (also known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), a group on the Australian Government’s list of proscribed terrorist organisations. The group is described as adhering to “a violent extremist ideology that is anti-Western and encourages violence as a key element of pursuing its goals.” Ahmed Succarieh, an Australian man who perpetrated a suicide bombing in Syria in 2013, was also linked to Jabhat al-Nusra.

Talib’s recent arrest followed a reported raid by police on his home in October 2020, where electronic items were seized but no charges laid. The charges that Talib and Crazzi are currently facing date back to 2012 and 2014.

In addition to alleged links to Jabhat al-Nusra, Talib has been accused by US authorities of providing material assistance to al-Qaeda.

In 2013, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced that Jabhat al-Nusra would serve as al-Qaeda’s arm in Syria. This was later rescinded but connections between the two groups perpetuate.

His recent arrest is not the first time Talib, or members of his family, have made the news.

In May 2010, Talib, his wife and his sister were among 546 passengers who left Istanbul for Gaza on board the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara. They were the only Australians on board this vessel.

The boat was part of a flotilla of six boats, some laden with violent protesters, attempting to break Israel’s maritime blockade on Gaza. It was organised by a Turkish group called IHH, a radical Islamist organisation with ties to Hamas, al-Qaeda and ISIS.

After being asked to leave the area, which remains under legal blockade, the vessels in the flotilla were boarded by Israeli security forces. On most of the boats, this proceeded relatively smoothly, but on the Mavi Marmara, there was organised violent resistance by highly motivated men armed with knives, clubs, axes and iron chains, and equipped with bulletproof vests, gas masks, pepper spray, headlamps and walkie-talkies. The violent clash that ensued left nine of the ship’s passengers dead, and 55 wounded, while nine IDF soldiers were wounded, several of them severely, including two with gunshot wounds.

Talib, who was born in the UK, and migrated to Australia from Sri Lanka in 1995, was among those injured in the violence on the Mavi Marmara.

According to a report in The Age, Talib received two gunshot wounds in his right leg. There are conflicting media reports as to whether his wounds were caused by ammunition or rubber bullets.

A UN report into the incident confirmed that flotilla passengers formed organised and violent resistance against IDF soldiers who boarded the vessels. While the report posited that loss of life could have been avoided, the Israeli representative on the report’s panel said the IDF responded in self-defence and “with restraint” to the violence.

Upon their return to Australia, Talib and his sister undertook a speaking tour where they condemned Israel and the IDF in the strongest terms, calling the response a “slaughter.”

His sister, Maryam Luqman Talib, recounted that an emergency medical team was assembled on the Mavi Marmara “in case of anything”. In the aftermath, she said of her brother’s injuries, “I think it is important to know this, so that people understand the true nature of the Zionist regime. These people are not human! There is no humanity in them!”

She continued: “If they really think we are terrorists, I have a message to them: I am proud to put terror in the heart of the Zionist regime.”

A decade after the Mavi Marmara incident, Talib and the Melbourne-based gemstone company he owns were designated by the US Treasury for providing material assistance to al-Qaeda.

A press release from former US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, “Talib has had financial dealings in a number of countries and is involved in dealing gemstones, which provide him with the ability to move funds internationally for the benefit of al-Qa’ida. Talib conducts business around the world, including in Brazil, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Turkey and the Gulf.”

Talib’s father and brother – Professor Lukman Thalib and Ismail Talib, both Australian citizens – were also arrested in 2020, a few months before Talib’s designation by the US. They were held in a prison in Qatar, where they both live, on unspecified charges. The Australian Government confirmed to media that it had provided consular assistance to the pair.

Following their release in January 2021, media reports indicate the pair flew to Turkey and then planned to travel on to Australia.

NGO CAGE reported that Sri Lanka-based members of Talib’s family were also detained and questioned.

Talib has now been remanded in custody by a Brisbane magistrate after the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions Clare O’Connor alleged he had travelled back to Turkey between 2012 and 2013 to arrange for an unidentified individual to enter Syria to fight government forces.

 

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