Networking: Hamdi Alqudsi charged with recruiting, funding and organising for six men to travel to Syria. Photo: Edwina Pickles
A Sydney man who died in Syria with his wife was allegedly recruited to the battlefield by a radical disability pensioner living in the western suburbs.
Fairfax Media can reveal that Yusuf Ali was one of six men allegedly sent to the frontline by Hamdi Alqudsi, 39, to fight with terrorist organisations in the country's civil war.
Mr Alqudsi, from St Helen's Park, was charged in December with recruiting, funding and organising for the men to travel to Syria to fight with Jabhat al-Nusra and other al-Qaeda affiliates.
Yusuf Ali with his mother, Kristine Hunt. Photo: Facebook
Despite dismantling Mr Alqudsi's alleged recruitment network, the Australian Federal Police fear more are operating, fuelling a constant flow of Australians going to Syria.
''Our real concern is getting a handle on the number of people going,'' AFP Deputy Commissioner Peter Drennan said.
It is believed Mr Ali and his wife, Amira, 22, were killed by the Free Syrian Army on Saturday after being caught in factional fighting between rebel groups.
Mr Ali was known as Tyler Hunt and Tyler Casey before he converted to Islam four years ago during a chance dinner with a Muslim man in his Gold Coast apartment block.
He was born into a large Christian family in Colorado, in the US, where his parents and siblings were in mourning on Thursday.
His heartbroken mother, Kristine Hunt, posted a photo from the last time she saw her son, saying she was too distraught to pick up the phone or respond to condolences.
''It's just been too hard,'' she said.
His family, including cousins in Queensland and half-brother Dario Hunt, a professional basketballer in the US, did not wish to comment.
Mr Ali married Amira Karroum who had been to school in Queensland in 2012 and they settled in Granville, in Sydney's west, to be closer to the Muslim community, Amira's uncle said.
And it was there that they came into contact with Mr Alqudsi through attending a network of mosques and lectures.
Mr Alqudsi, who also goes by the name Ibrahim Galiel, participated in the violent Muslim protests in Hyde Park last year and has two wives, one of whom - Carnita Matthews, caused controversy of her own in 2011 when she refused to remove her burqa for police conducting a random breath test.
During Mr Alqudsi's court appearance in December he claimed he could only raise $500 bail because he lived on a modest disability pension. However, a section of the Muslim community mustered the required $10,000 to secure his release.
The whereabouts of the remaining five men he allegedly sent to Syria are unknown but they have not returned to Australia.
A seventh man, Amin Iman Mohamad, from Lidcombe, was arrested at Brisbane Airport in December and charged with preparing to engage in foreign hostile activities.
Another participant in the Hyde Park riot, 23-year-old Mohamed Zubhi, from Liverpool, is also in Syria.
Mr Zubhi, who once told ABC radio that Muslim youth ''don't want to apologise [to our leaders] for our behaviour'' during the protest, left Australia in March last year.
According to research by the Norwegian terrorism expert Thomas Hegghammer, one in nine Westerners who train or fight overseas with a jihadist insurgency group returns to become involved in a terrorist plot.
Federal Attorney-General George Brandis said he remained ''deeply concerned for the safety of Australians in Syria'' due to ''ongoing military conflict, kidnappings and terrorist attacks''.
Mr Brandis also said the government was concerned about the radicalisation of those who returned to Australia with capabilities acquired through fighting or training with extremist groups.