NATION US, UK IN ON SYDNEY TERROR PLOT BUST
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.