Aussie police foil twin terror plots
SYDNEY — A man instructed by the Islamic State to bring down an Etihad Airways flight tried to use an unsuspecting passenger to carry a bomb on board, with a second poison gas plot also in the works, Australian police alleged on Friday.
The improvised device, using “high military-grade explosive”, was due to be smuggled onto a July 15 flight from Sydney, but the attempt was aborted before they reached security.
Two men — Khaled Khayat and Mahmoud Khayat — have been charged with terrorism offenses and were refused bail on Friday, with a third still being questioned.
Police claim one of them planted the bomb in the passenger’s luggage. Local reports said the luggage belonged to the man’s own brother.
“We will be alleging the person who was to carry the IED had no idea he was carrying an IED,” said Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan.
“There is a little bit of conjecture as to why it didn’t go ahead. It didn’t get past the check-in.”
Police are working on the theory that it was called off because the device may have been too heavy.
Authorities also foiled a second alleged plot involving a “chemical dispersion device”, designed to release hydrogen sulphide.
Hydrogen sulphide is highly toxic, and often fatal for people exposed to it.
“Not only have we stopped the IED that was believed to go on the plane but we have also completely disrupted the intended chemical dispersion device,” Phelan said.
The second plan was hatched after the first one failed, police alleged, and was not necessarily targeted at a plane.
“They were talking about crowded closed spaces, you know, potentially public transport, and so on,” Phelan said, but added that “they got nowhere near making one”.
The plot was orchestrated by “a senior member of the Islamic State” based overseas, he added.
Communications with extremists began in April and they sent components and propellants through international cargo from Turkey, police said.
The men were then directed on how to build a bomb that would have caused “significant damage”.
“With assistance from the IS commander, the accused assembled the components into what we believe was a functioning IED to be placed on that flight,” said Phelan.
The destination of the flight was not revealed, although reports suggested it was Abu Dhabi.
Etihad earlier this week confirmed it was working with authorities in Australia on their investigation.
Police would not reveal who the IS link was but said it will be alleged the men were introduced to him by a relative who is a senior IS member in Syria.
Security was tightened at domestic and international airports across Australia after four men were arrested in raids in Sydney on Saturday over what Phelan called “one of the most sophisticated plots that has ever been attempted on Australian soil”.