Sydney: The ringleader of a network that helped young Australian men fight for Islamic extremists in the Middle East was sentenced to a maximum of eight years in prison on Thursday. Hamdi Alqudsi, the first person charged under federal foreign incursion and recruitment laws over the brutal Syrian conflict, will be eligible for release in 2022, after serving a non-parole period of six years, Xinhua news agency reported. In her sentencing remarks in the New South Wales Supreme Court, Justice Christine Adamson said Alqudsi "took upon himself the role of commander," and noted there was evidence he had helped several more men than those included in his indictment. The 42-year-old disability pensioner from Sydney's south-west was found guilty earlier this year by a jury of seven counts of providing services with the intention of supporting hostile acts in Syria between June and October 2013. Justice Adamson accepted the analogy that Alqudsi was the "hub" of the wheel and said his "most important role" was linking the men with Mohammad Ali Baryalei, a prolific jihadi recruiter who would become known as one of Australia's most senior members of the Islamic State. Australian authorities have conducted 16 counter-terror operations since 2014, arresting 44 alleged home-grown terrorists.