NA­TION Pair on plane ter­ror charges

Townsville Bulletin - - NATION - JANET FIFE- YEO­MANS

TWO men be­lieved to be brothers were last night charged over an al­leged plot to bomb a do­mes­tic flight out of Syd­ney.

Khaled Khayat, 49, and Mahmoud Khayat, 27, both from Syd­ney, were charged by the NSW Joint Counter Ter­ror­ism Team with two counts of acts done in prepa­ra­tion for, or plan­ning, a ter­ror­ist act.

Both will face Par­ra­matta Lo­cal Court to­day to face the charges, which carry a max­i­mum penalty of life in jail.

They are two of the four men ar­rested in raids across Syd­ney last Satur­day.

Their brother- in- law Khaled Merhi re­mains in de­ten­tion be­ing ques­tioned by po­lice un­der spe­cific pro­vi­sions of the Com­mon­wealth Crimes Act, which po­lice last night said “recog­nises that ter­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tions are in­her­ently com­plex and that there can be le­git­i­mate rea­sons for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of de­ten­tion for sus­pects in such mat­ters”.

Merhi, who lives with his par­ents at Surry Hills, has not been charged. The fourth man, Khaled Merhi’s brother Ab­dul Merhi, 50, was re­leased with­out charge on Tues­day.

Po­lice con­firmed they had been search­ing six homes across Syd­ney af­ter the raids on homes in Lakemba, Surry Hills, Wi­ley Park, Bankstown and two homes in Punch­bowl.

The charges fol­low a day of drama dur­ing which both Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull and NSW Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Mick Fuller de­clared po­lice had “very strong ev­i­dence” about the al­leged plot by a Syd­ney ter­ror cell to bomb the plane, be­lieved to have been an Eti­had A380.

“We mo­bilised quickly and from my per­spec­tive we stopped what would have been a ter­ri­ble crime,” Mr Fuller said.

The avi­a­tion threat level set by the spy agency ASIO – which was raised last week to “prob­a­ble” in the wake of in­tel­li­gence re­ports about the al­leged plot – has been re­stored to “pos­si­ble” but se­cu­rity will re­main height­ened at air­ports.

His com­ments came af­ter it was re­vealed that the plan was to use a sac­ri­fi­cial lamb to carry the bomb hid­den in a kitchen meat min­cer on board as cabin bag­gage, un­aware he was on a sui­cide mis­sion.

Mr Turn­bull said the plot was “dis­rupted and con­tained” and promised de­lays, which have seen pas­sen­gers queue out of the doors at Syd­ney’s air­ports, should be re­duced as the new se­cu­rity mea­sures were “mod­i­fied”.

Ab­dul Merhi’s so­lic­i­tor Moustafa Kheir said he wanted to re­view “what ba­sis po­lice had to do what they did”.

He said Mr Merhi’s fam­ily was in shock and his life had been “turned up­side down”.

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