Parramatta shooter no 'lone wolf': What the police knew

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(Image via 7 News)

Despite their assurances otherwise, Peter Wicks from Wixxyleaks says the police were aware of the group to which the 15 year-old Parramatta shooter belonged and had even arrested some other members prior to the shooting.

The pointless and callous shooting of civilian police employee Curtis Cheng on Friday night outside Parramatta Police Headquarters was tragic on so many levels.

Tragic, because it represented the destruction of the innocence of two people, the victim and the perpetrator.

I say the innocence of the perpetrator, as we need to remember it was a child committing this heinous act. A 15-year-old representation of the Australian society's failure to deal with the social issues in this country that lead to disenfranchised youth seeking acceptance through street gangs, criminal networks and, in some cases, religious extremism.

Yesterday, Wixxyleaks received assurances from sources within the Islamic community that the 15-year-old wannabe terrorist was indeed part of a group and, despite assurances from police that he was unknown to them, that police had been made aware of the group, and that some had even been arrested prior to this event.

Farhad Khalil Mohammad, sources claim, was part of a group of no more than a dozen young Muslims who had been radicalised. It was also claimed that two members of this group of friends were in fact stopped in April this year at Sydney Airport by customs as they attempted to leave the country to join ISIS in Syria.

This group reportedly does not go by a name like other groups have, but are known within the community, even if not by name, by recognition. They are viewed as a close-knit group of friends rather than a gang or extremist group, but some in the community claim that members of this group have extremist views. We have now seen those views come to the surface from at least three of them.

One would hope that the different agencies and forces that investigate terrorism leads work hand in hand and share information. Politicians, the police and the public need to work together to ensure that disenfranchised youth are not radicalised and events like those on Friday on highlight how much further we have to go the reach that point.

Working with the community

Politicians like to talk about lifters and leaners. At the moment, we appear to be asking all of the lifting to be done by the Islamic community. Our efforts in prevention of radicalisation appear to be minimal, at best; instead, we muster our energies for cleaning up the mess that radicaliation brings, whether that be in terror raids or the aftermath of a shooting.

Those in the Islamic community I have spoken with think that politicians are too hasty to tick the box marked “supported Islamic deradicalisation project” and are, perhap,s utilising the wrong members of the community to reach the target audience. If we are going to reach these kids, it has to be via people they can relate to and respect.

The other thing we need to do is change our expectations of the Islamic community.

Before the shooting, Farhad Khalil Mohammad headed for a final prayer at the Parramatta Mosque — a mosque he visited on irregular occasions. Police asked the Mosque's chairman if he knew the killer. When the Mosques Chair told them he recognised but did not know the boy's name or his family, he then stayed with police until the small hours of the morning to try to identify both.

I wonder if the killer had gone to McDonalds for a bite prior to the shooting, instead of the mosque, if the manager of Macca’s would have spent the night finding the family or been expected to.

Those who seek to recruit to extremist groups will seize upon any opportunity to spread their unique brands of hatred. It is not just Islamic groups. Right wing extremist group Reclaim Australia were quick to letterbox drop their propaganda in the Parramatta area. Reclaim Australia are a modern-day version of the Blues Brothers Illinois Nazi’s. With their membership full of the meth heads, skinheads and dunderheads that bikie gangs had rejected, this group of extremists are best known for their protests turning violent.

Disenfranchised youth are a problem in the Australian community not the Islamic community. The Islamic community do not need the singling out. The sooner we stop treating this as an “us and them” issue. then the sooner we can have a real conversation about addressing the issue rather than just yelling at each other about it.

We are all sick of the hating.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy.

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