Skip to comments.The Suburban Terrorist (Mamdouh Habib)
Posted on 04/19/2002 3:30:57 PM PDT by knighthawk
TO HIS family and friends, Mamdouh Habib was a devoted father and husband. But to others, the calm suburban veneer disguised an angry and often violent man whose actions were fuelled by his religious fanaticism. Seemingly a helpful supporter at his son's soccer matches, Habib also had a nasty streak which landed him with an AVO against former colleagues and a court order to destroy firearms and ammunition in his home.
Nine days after the September 11 attack in New York, his home was raided by the nation's chief spy watchdog ASIO.
Today, the fate of the man named as Australia's fourth terrorist, lies with US authorities who arrested him on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border last October. Imprisoned in an Afghan jail, he will soon be transferred to the prison camp for international terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. What apparently drove Habib to abandon his family and humble fibro home in southwest Sydney was a dangerous cocktail of devotion and fanaticism which has shattered the lives of those he cared about most, and shocked those who knew him simply as a loving father.
According to family friend Salah El-Elouz, Habib was a committed family man "who never talked about politics or religion".
But other acquaintances yesterday painted a different picture of the 46-year-old alleged terrorist.
One community leader, who met Habib at a city restaurant two years ago, recalled an excitable man "verging on the delusional" about the Islamic cause.
Habib's journey as a suspected terrorist began with the most unlikely of events a suburban murder.
When a 16-year-old Birrong Boys High student was shot dead at Bankstown railway station last February, Habib decided it was time to act and leave his home in Cooper Rd, Birrong.
Fiercely protective of his family, he was terrified his children would get caught up in a drugs-and-guns culture which he believed had enveloped his teenage sons' peers.
Salah El-Elouz said Habib took off from his home to Pakistan with the aim of finding a school where his children would be safe.
"This really stressed him out," Mr El-Elouz said yesterday of the February 2001 shooting of Omar El-Chami Batch.
"It made him go overseas to find a better place for his children."
Within Sydney's Muslim community, opinions differ widely about his character.
Habib is either an unwitting victim of circumstance or an extremist zealot who was swayed to the cause of terrorism and the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden.
Those speaking publicly insist the father-of-four was simply a good man with an appalling sense of timing. "I think he is a victim of circumstance," Lebanese Muslim Association vice-president Keysar Trad said.
"It seems that was he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The Mufti [Sheik el-Din al-Hilaly] says he knew him.
"He was, I recall, at the mosque. The Mufti describes him as a normal person.
"Sometimes he expressed a different view but he is a completely normal person."
But others said they were not surprised Habib had been detained in Pakistan, given the radical views he had.
"He seemed a little innocent about it all. I'd only met him for a few minutes and he was telling me about his views," one man said.
"But he didn't strike me as a hard-line terrorist,".