How Gold Coast private schoolgirl Amira Karroum was seduced into joining Isis

By Candace Sutton of news.com.au

Amira Karroum became radicalised as early as 2011 and was promised cash and a new car by charismatic recruiter Hamdi Alqudsi. Photo / Supplied
Amira Karroum became radicalised as early as 2011 and was promised cash and a new car by charismatic recruiter Hamdi Alqudsi. Photo / Supplied

Amira Karroum was beautiful and accomplished, but also lonely, an easy mark for the lies dripping from the mouth of the Islamic State recruiter that were to lure her to a barbaric death.

It was July 4, 2013 and Karroum had just farewelled her new husband Yusuf Ali on his secret mission to go and fight for IS in Syria.

During a short Skype conversation with the recruiter who was pretending to be her new friend, the 21-year-old former private schoolgirl and graphic design student could be heard giggling and then crying with excitement and relief.

Karroum was in the hands of the charismatic Hamdi Alqudsi, jailed last month for sending seven young men including Karroum's husband to fight in Syria.

Broadcast on ABC, which played it for the first time to Karroum's father, the conversation sounds both banal and sinister.

Lebanese-born Mohamed Karroum, who ran a kebab shop on the Gold Coast to put his daughters through the elite St Hildas School, is now a broken man.

Listening to his daughter speak from the grave, Mr Karroum says "that's her, that's her. I have just heard my daughter for the first time after three years".

"Now I know that's him. He's the recruiter.

"I am 73 years old. He has taken, he has taken the best of my best."

The conversation between Karroum and Alqudsi took place five days after husband Ali, whose real name was Tyler Casey, had flown to Singapore.

In his absence, Alqudsi adopts the role of surrogate relative.

Amira Karroum's school photograph. Photo / Supplied
Amira Karroum's school photograph. Photo / Supplied

Amira Karroum: (laughing) "I'm shy too. I'm shy too. I'm 21 so ..."

Hamdi Alqudsi: "We're inviting you next week to come to my house, OK?"

AK: "Just let me know what, what day and time and I'll be there."

HA: "That's it. OK, listen to me. I've got good news."

AK: "No way."

HA: "We're getting you a nice new car."

AK: "No, what? Oh my God!"

HA: "Also sister we're going to give you a thousand dollars cash. Inshallah. We want you to be comfortable. We want you to be happy."

AK : (shrieks with excitement in the background as Alqudsi continues).

HA: "We don't want you to be falling behind. And I want you to feel like I'm your older brother. I want you to feel like you trust me. Inshallah sister (Karroum is now crying) because you are very special.

AK: "I'll tell him to call you. You will probably get a call tonight."

HA: "OK, take care of yourself."

While Alqudsi was never charged with recruiting Amira Karroum, it is believed she later joined her husband in Syria with Alqudsi's help.

He acted as a father figure and called himself a leader of these people. He used the name Ibrahim Galiel, and led the men in prayers before the 2012 Hyde Park riots.

Karroum had been on the path to radicalisation before she met Alqudsi.

The girl remembered as a "sweet, caring girl" by her St Hildas classmates was turning towards jihadi style Islam even before she moved from the Gold Coast to Sydney in April 2012.

She celebrated the 9/11 attacks on the US on Facebook, and the violence of the Hyde Park riots, writing "f*** the police! Smash all the cop cars".

She met Tyler Casey when he was working for Street Dawah, the western Sydney extremist preaching movement started by former Kings Cross bouncer Muhammad Ali Baryalei.

Baryalei was Hamdi Alqudsi's counterpart on the ground in Syria before he was killed in October 2014.

A joint US-Australian citizen, Casey had worked for al-Qaeda before joining the Syrian war.

Karroum married Casey, who she dubbed her "lion" in Facebook posts, in 2013. She listed her occupation on Facebook as "Slave of Allah" and wrote of dying and going to heaven to meet Allah.

Her profile photo had a picture of a garden with the saying, "Jannah [heaven] is the motive".

In January, 2014 Amira Karroum left Australia. She was 22 years old and she told her family she was visiting friends in Denmark.

Karroum crossed into Syria to join Casey and the pair arrived in the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, just 60km from the Turkish border.

Casey was working for the then al-Qaeda-linked group, Jabhat Al Nusra, which was fighting with the Free Syrian Army.

Days after their arrival, the couple was ambushed in their new house and executed.

It was reported that the bodies of both were dismembered.

Back on the Gold Coast, Mohamed Karroum suffered a mild heart attack when he heard the news of his daughter's death.

On hearing the recorded Skype conversation between his daughter and Hamdi Alqudsi, Mr Karroum told ABC: "I'd like to see his face just to look him in the eye".

Hamdi Alqudsi was sentenced to eight years for providing services with the intention of supporting hostile acts in Syria between June and October 2013, and will be eligible for parole in 2022.

- news.com.au

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