Aus­tralian plane plot may have in­volved bomb or gas: Re­ports

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Four men ac­cused of plot­ting to bring down a plane planned to use poi­sonous gas or a crude bomb dis­guised as a meat min­cer, re­ports said yes­ter­day, with Aus­tralian of­fi­cials call­ing prepa­ra­tions “ad­vanced”. The men-re­port­edly two Lebanese-Aus­tralian fa­thers and their sons — were ar­rested in raids across Syd­ney on Satur­day evening.

The Syd­ney Daily Tele­graph said they al­legedly planned to carry the de­vice on board a com­mer­cial flight from Syd­ney to a Mid­dle East des­ti­na­tion as hand lug­gage. It said the idea was to use wood scrap­ings and ex­plo­sive ma­te­rial inside a piece of kitchen equip­ment such as a minc­ing ma­chine. The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald also re­ported that a min­cer was be­ing ex­am­ined, while The Aus­tralian news­pa­per cited mul­ti­ple sources as say­ing it was a “non-tra­di­tional” de­vice that could have emit­ted a toxic sul­phur­based gas.

This, it said, would have killed or im­mo­bi­lized ev­ery­one on the air­craft. Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull said the plans were “ad­vanced” but re­fused to com­ment on the con­flict­ing claims over the method of at­tack. “I have to re­spect the in­tegrity of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” he said. “But I can say that cer­tainly the po­lice will al­lege they had the in­tent and were de­vel­op­ing the ca­pa­bil­ity. “There will ob­vi­ously be more to say over com­ing days. It will be al­leged that this was an Is­lamist, ex­trem­ist ter­ror­ist mo­ti­va­tion.” Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice Com­mis­sioner An­drew Colvin on Sun­day said the avi­a­tion in­dus­try was po­ten­tially a tar­get and that an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice was in­volved.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Keenan on Mon­day called the plans “quite so­phis­ti­cated”. “It was a plot to bring down an air­craft with the idea of smug­gling a de­vice on to it to en­able them to do that,” he said. A mag­is­trate late Sun­day gave po­lice an ad­di­tional seven days to de­tain the men, who have not been of­fi­cially named, with­out charge. Po­lice con­tin­ued to gather ev­i­dence Mon­day at the five homes raided, warn­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be “very long and pro­tracted”.

TV footage on Satur­day showed riot po­lice mov­ing on a ter­raced house in the in­ner-city sub­urb of Surry Hills, with a man with a ban­dage on his head be­ing led away by au­thor­i­ties, draped in a blan­ket. A woman at the ad­dress de­nied they had any link to ter­ror­ism. Po­lice re­port­edly acted af­ter re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion from an over­seas in­tel­li­gence agency, sug­gest­ing the men may have been di­rected by some­one else. Turn­bull would not con­firm this, but said “nowhere is far away from any­where else th­ese days”. “In an age of the in­ter­net and the age of so­cial me­dia and the age of in­stant mes­sag­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, Syria is not a long way away from Syd­ney,” he said. “And so that’s the crit­i­cal­ity of it­seam­less co­op­er­a­tion.”

Se­cu­rity has been strength­ened at ma­jor do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional air­ports across Aus­tralia since the raids, with pas­sen­gers asked to ar­rive early and to limit their bag­gage. This prompted long queues at Syd­ney’s do­mes­tic ter­mi­nal on Mon­day morn­ing, with of­fi­cials say­ing ex­tra checks were likely to con­tinue for some time. Aus­tralia’s na­tional ter­ror alert level was raised on Septem­ber 2014 amid con­cerns over at­tacks by in­di­vid­u­als in­spired by or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Is­lamic State group.

Can­berra has be­come so wor­ried that it an­nounced the cre­ation of a su­per min­istry this month com­bin­ing its se­cu­rity agen­cies in­clud­ing the do­mes­tic spy ser­vice, bor­der force and na­tional po­lice to bet­ter tackle ter­ror­ism. A to­tal of 12 at­tacks, be­fore the lat­est one, have been pre­vented in the past few years, while 70 peo­ple have been charged. Sev­eral ter­ror at­tacks have taken place in Aus­tralia in re­cent years, in­clud­ing a Syd­ney cafe siege in 2014 that saw two hostages killed.

— AFP

SYD­NEY: Po­lice walk out­side the in­ter­na­tional ter­mi­nal as they pa­trol Syd­ney Air­port yes­ter­day.

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