Australia terror plot: Two men charged after Sydney police seize machete, knife and Isis flag

Police said they believed they had stopped an 'imminent' terror attack

Lizzie Dearden@lizziedearden
Wednesday 11 February 2015 10:47
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Police patrol the street in Sydney's central business district on December 24, 2014.
Police patrol the street in Sydney's central business district on December 24, 2014.

Two men arrested after police in Australia foiled an imminent Isis-inspired attack have been imprisoned and charged.

Omar Al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, are accused of undertaking acts in preparation for a terrorist act, which carries a maximum punishment of life in prison.

They were arrested yesterday when police seized a homemade flag associated with the so-called Islamic State, a machete and a hunting knife in a counter-terrorism raid in the Sydney suburb of Fairfield.

A converted garage at the rear of the property in the Fairfield district of Sydney, where Omar Al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, were arrested

A video showing one of the suspects kneeling in front of the black flag and making a politically-motivated speech threatening to commit “violent acts” with the knife and machete he was holding was also found, according to the Australian Attorney General, George Brandis.

The men did not appear at a brief court hearing at on Wednesday morning, local time, where they were refused bail. Australian media reported that they requested to stay in their cells.

They will appear again at the Central Local Court in Sydney tomorrow.

Deputy New South Wales Police Commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters said the force believed an attack would have been carried out yesterday if the men, who were allegedly “well advanced in their preparations”, had not been detained.

Asked whether they were planning a beheading, she replied, “We don't really know what act they were going to commit.”

New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn (L) and Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan address the media in Sydney on 11 February

“What we are going to allege is consistent with the Isis messaging,” she added. “We believe that the men were potentially going to harm somebody, maybe even kill somebody, and potentially using one of the items that we identified and recovered yesterday, potentially a knife.”

Police believe the men planned to launch their attack in western Sydney and are trying to determine whether they were in contact with anyone else affiliated to Isis.

There has been no suggestion of a connection between the alleged plot and another planned attack that prompted a series of counter-terror raids in Sydney in September.

Australia has been on terror alert since a 16-hour siege at a Sydney cafe in December resulted in three people, including the gunman, losing their lives

One man arrested during those raids was charged with conspiring with an Isis leader in Syria to behead a random person in the Australian city.

Australia's terror alert level was raised in September in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Isis group, which has threatened Australia in the past.

In September, its spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a message urging attacks abroad, and specifically mentioned Australia along with Europe, the US and France.

Three months later, Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born self-styled cleric with a long criminal history, took 18 people hostage inside a Sydney cafe.

Man Haron Monis, who emigrated to Australia from Iran in 1996, claimed he had been continually under attack by the Australian government since 2007.

Although he used an Isis-style flag during the siege, which resulted in the deaths of three people including the gunman, investigators do not believe he had contact with the group.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott fears the terror threat in Australia was going to only worsen as international operations against Isis in Iraq and Syria continue.

Australia is one of the largest parties in the international coalition fighting militants, launching air strikes and conducting humanitarian missions.

Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani.

“As we have seen again and again in recent times, the death cult is reaching out all around the world, including here in Australia,” Mr Abbott told Parliament.

“There are people in this country who are susceptible to these indictments to extremism and even terrorism.”

About 90 Australians are believed to be fighting with Isis in Syria and Iraq, with another 140 people apparently supporting the group from Australia.

Fifteen people were detained following pre-dawn raids terror across Sydney and Brisbane in September

Counterterrorism expert Clive Williams, a former military intelligence officer who now works at the Australian National University, said “lone wolf” attacks like the Sydney siege were difficult to predict or stop.

“To drive a car into a group of policemen takes no planning whatsoever,” he said.

“It's a lot different from what al-Qaeda was encouraging people to do, which was to do sophisticated bombings which would result in lots of casualties but took lots of preparation and organisation.

“There was a better chance of detecting them, but they were more dangerous — whereas these are less detectable but less dangerous.”

Additional reporting by AP

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