Sydney 30July17: Terrorism: Police and AFP raid a number of houses across Lakemba, Punchbowl and Surry Hills after a plot to shoot down and aircraft with an IED is uncovered.Sproule St LakembaPhoto MIchele MOssopA senior Islamic State figure in Syria dictated a plan to execute mass-casualty terrorism on n soil and managed to send a “military-grade explosive” to Sydney undetected.
The alleged terrorism conspiracy that police cracked open last week served as a chilling example of how IS figures use supporters as puppets to carry out terrorism in foreign countries.
The method of “virtually planning” involves IS operatives feeding overseas supporters instructions via encrypted communication platforms on how to carry out terrorism.
This is what police allege occurred when men in an alleged Sydney terror cell began communicating with the terrorist group in April.
Messages between Lakemba man Khaled Mahmoud Khayat, 49, and IS spanned months and delved into how the most destructive plot ever concocted on n soil would be executed.
In one message seen by Fairfax Media, the men signed off with “thanks be to God”.
At some point during the following three months, the IS senior operative sent components of an improvised explosive device (IED) to , from Turkey, via air cargo.
“With assistance from the IS commander, the accused assembled the IED into what we believe was a functional IED to be placed on that flight,” n Federal Police (AFP) Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan said.
The IED was secreted inside a meat mincer, packed inside luggage and carted to Sydney International Airport on July 15.
The plan was for the bag to end up on a Etihad flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi. Khaled Mahmoud Khayat’s brother, Amer Khayat, was the unwitting passenger, who had no idea a bomb had been planted in his check-in luggage.
However, the plot was abandoned, possibly because the luggage was too heavy.
Khaled Mahmoud Khayat was allegedly directing the terrorism plot and his other brother, Mahmoud Khayat, 32, was also allegedly involved. Both have been charged with terrorism offences.
Mr Phelan would not quantify how much explosive material was sent to but it was “enough to cause significant damage”.
“We are alleging that explosive device, components of it, including the propellant, did come from overseas,” he said.
Screening at cargo points is now under review and was immediately bolstered after n intelligence agencies learned of the plot on July 26.
The plane bomb plot was abandoned after July 15 and a new plan was hatched to build an improvised chemical device to release in a public place.
Messages between the Sydney group and IS operative detailed what chemicals to use, particular chemical reactions to try and what can be used to create the most amount of damage in a confined place, Mr Phelan said.
The IS “controller” also spoke with the ns about the best places to release the chemical device, including crowded spaces and public transport.
IS has been increasingly using virtually planned attacks as a way of infiltrating overseas supporter groups.
The operatives often pick the targets, tactics and provide emotional support right up until the moment of the attack, Monash University terrorism researcher Andrew Zammit says.
Zammit said the recent development emerged as part of IS’ “widespread use of social media and other online means to mobilise transnational support”.
“[It] has enabled IS to orchestrate violence in places where its capabilities were too limited for centrally planned attacks,” Zammit wrote in a journal article for the Institute of Regional Security.
Virtual planning has been involved in several n plots, most prominently the 2015 Anzac Day plot in Melbourne in which Sevdet Bessem received online instructions from IS recruiter Neil Prakash and a 14-year-old British boy who was in close contact with IS.
They discussed various targets and tactics at length, down to what he should wear on the day of the attack.