NA­TION US, UK IN ON SYD­NEY TER­ROR PLOT BUST

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - SHARRI MARKSON, ASHLEIGH GLEESON, DANIELLE GUS­MAROLI, MATTHEW BENNS

FOR­EIGN spies from in­tel­li­gence agen­cies in the United States and Bri­tain helped Aus­tralia de­stroy an al­leged ter­ror­ist plot to bring down an Eti­had flight out of Syd­ney.

Can­ter­bury Bull­dogs fan and butcher Khaled Khayat and three oth­ers were last night be­ing held for ques­tion­ing over the al­leged plot to put gas sub­stances in a kitchen meat min­cer, which may have ex­ploded on board or gassed hun­dreds of in­no­cent pas­sen­gers.

No charges had been laid as of last night.

Po­lice of­fi­cers spent yes­ter­day painstak­ingly sift­ing through garbage bins at a unit block in the Syd­ney sub­urb of Lakemba, linked to the Khay­ats, with ma­te­ri­als seized in­clud­ing a flight slip with the num­ber of a route from Jakarta to Syd­ney and a fre­quent flyer num­ber.

News Corp Aus­tralia can re­veal an Eti­had flight to Abu Dhabi, with as many as 500 pas­sen­gers and crew on board, was the tar­get of the al­leged ter­ror plot. It in­volved us­ing a gas sub­stance rather than ex­plo­sives, which is harder for air­port se­cu­rity to de­tect than a kilo­gram of ex­plo­sives.

Au­thor­i­ties feared the plot to cause mass ca­su­al­ties on the plane was im­mi­nent, pos­si­bly to be car­ried out within days.

In­tel­li­gence from Aus­tralia’s Five Eyes part­ners, the United States, Bri­tain, New Zealand and Canada, helped crack the al­leged ter­ror cell. How­ever, na­tional se­cu­rity agen­cies are con­fi­dent they have de­stroyed the al­leged ter­ror plot and elim­i­nated the threat posed by them.

In­tel­li­gence sources said there was no sug­ges­tion the four de­tainees had trained over­seas, al­though they were in con­tact with Is­lamic ex­trem­ist groups op­er­at­ing in Syria and Iraq.

The four men are be­ing held un­der anti- ter­ror laws that were ap­proved by the chief mag­is­trate on Sun­day. They can be held for seven days with­out charge while se­cu­rity ser­vices search for ev­i­dence about the al­leged ter­ror plot.

Yes­ter­day counter- ter­ror­ism po­lice were sift­ing through ev­i­dence at the five prop­er­ties raided on Satur­day – one each in Lakemba, Surry Hills and Wi­ley Park, and two at Punch­bowl. Among other ma­te­ri­als taken in the past few days were pipes, gas bot­tles, SIM cards and com­po­nents be­lieved to be from a meat grinder.

How­ever, AFP Com­mis­sioner An­drew Colvin was keep­ing his cards close to his chest yes­ter­day.

“The plot that we are in­ves­ti­gat­ing we be­lieve was an at­tempt to put a de­vice onto an air­craft, but be­yond that the spec­u­la­tion is just that – spec­u­la­tion,” Mr Colvin said. “Un­til we fin­ish our in­ves­ti­ga­tion … un­til we can put that in­for­ma­tion be­fore the courts it’s not help­ful to keep spec­u­lat­ing.” TIGHTER se­cu­rity up­grades could be the “new nor­mal”, the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment has warned, as air­ports ex­pe­ri­enced a sec­ond day of de­lays. In the wake of the foiled ter­ror plot, Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull left open the prospect of last­ing changes. “The height­ened se­cu­rity mea­sures at the air­port, as ev­ery­where, are un­der con­stant review,” he said yes­ter­day. “They’ll be re­quired for as long as the threat is as­sessed as re­quir­ing them,” he said. Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton ac­knowl­edged the Gov­ern­ment was look­ing at con­tin­u­ing the clam­p­down, which has seen in­tense bag­gage checks, with pas­sen­gers be­ing sub­jected to bomb snif­fer tests even as they queue up for se­cu­rity.

MAIN PHOTO: Chaos at Syd­ney air­port. LEFT: Po­lice sift through ev­i­dence from the raided homes in the Syd­ney sub­urbs of Lakemba, Surry Hills, Wi­ley Park and Punch­bowl.

HELD: Khaled Khayat

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