Australian police say men tried to get IS bomb on plane at Sydney airport
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Two men facing terrorism charges in Australia were involved in an aborted attempt to place an improvised explosive device on an Etihad Airways flight out of Sydney last month in a plot directed by the Islamic State group, police say.
One of the men, a 49-year-old from Sydney, brought the device to Sydney airport on July 15 in luggage he had asked his brother to take with him on the flight — without telling the brother that the bag contained explosives, Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Michael Phelan told reporters.
But for reasons still unclear, the bag never got past the check-in counter.
Instead, Phelan said, the 49-yearold man left the airport with the bag, and his brother continued onto the flight without it.
“This is one of the most sophisticated plots that has ever been attempted on Australian soil,” Phelan said.
“If it hadn’t been for the great work of our intelligence agencies and law enforcement over a very quick period of time, then we could well have a catastrophic event in this country.”
The details Phelan provided on Friday (local time) are the first that officials have released since four men were arrested in a series of raids in Sydney last weekend.
The 49-year-old man and a 32year-old have been charged with two counts of planning a terrorist act.
A third man remains in custody, while a fourth was released without charge.
The 49-year-old’s brother has not been charged in connection with the plot, because police believe he had no idea the bag contained explosives, Phelan said. Police have not released the names of any of the suspects.
The components for the device, including what Phelan described as a “military-grade explosive,” were sent by a senior Islamic State member to the men in Sydney via air cargo from Turkey.
An Islamic State commander then instructed the two men who have been charged on how to assemble the device, which police have since recovered, Phelan said.
Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Michael Phelan, right, discusses details of the alleged plot to bring down a plane.