Wednesday, February 11, 2015

11-Feb-15: Sydney counter-terror raids said to frustrate imminent Islamist atrocity

Kiad [Daily Telegraph]
In Sydney, Australia, where memories are still fresh of a traumatizing siege and multiple deaths that paralyzed the city in mid December, counter-terrorism police say they arrested two men during Tuesday on charges that they were preparing to carry out another Islamist terror attack the same day.

The government's national terror threat level has been at "high" for some months ["18-Sep-14: In Australia, massive police raids today seek to prevent beheadings"] when police, acting on information that supporters of ISIS/Islamic State planned to conduct a public beheading, carried out the first in a series of ongoing raids across western Sydney and in the Queensland capital, Brisbane. Those were were the largest raids of their kind in Australian history, .

This comes from Reuters:
Police said the men, aged 24 and 25, were arrested after a raid on a home in a western Sydney suburb on Tuesday and had been charged with planning a terrorist act. "When we did the search of the premises, a number of items were located, including a machete, a hunting knife, a home-made flag representing the proscribed terrorist organization IS, and also a video which depicted a man talking about carrying out an attack," New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters. "We will allege that both of these men were preparing to do this act yesterday," she said. The men were not known to police, Burn said. "This is indicative of the threat that we now have to live with and which we are now having to deal with"... [Reuters]
In The Australian newspaper, the coverage ["Two men arrested in NSW over ‘public beheading’ plot"] is more explicit, quoting Australia's prime minister who says things are going to get worse before they get better (we agree). He told Parliament 65 Australian passports have been cancelled in the course of the current alert.

BBC says the suspects "chose not to appear at an initial hearing on Wednesday, where bail was formally refused... New South Wales Premier Mike Baird urged vigilance and said the alleged plot was "beyond disturbing... Certainly something catastrophic was avoided yesterday and for that we should be very thankful,".

Sydney's Daily Telegraph says the two men, Omar Al-Kutobi, 24 and a student of computer science, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, were arrested at the "granny" flat (a converted garage, according to ABC Radio) where they lived in Fairfield, a Western suburb, around 4 in the afternoon. The search of their small flat continued until the early hours of this morning (Wednesday). Two-thirds of Fairfield's population were born outside Australia [Wikipedia].

The two suspects, not at prayer [Daily Telegraph]
The neighbour is quoted saying Kiad seemed not to work "but may have been studying for a forklift licence, and often visited a nearby recreational centre to do weight-lifting." He is quoted by the paper saying "the pair were deeply religious, praying five times a day."

Al Kutobi is said to have gotten Australian citizenship in 2014 after being given refuge on fleeing his native Iraq. Kiad,is described as "a nurse who moved from Kuwait in 2012", has the immigration status of permanent resident.

How their religious practices play into this news is not clarified, but the general flavour of the reports - in a country that takes its preference for tolerance and fair play seriously - is ominous. The Joint Counter Terrorism Taskforce acted on information that an attack was imminent, and that the pair had armed themselves with a machete and a large hunting knife as well as a self-made ISIS flag, now - in view of December's tragic events - a well-recognized icon in Australia.

A TV news report embedded in the Telegraph article adds that a video was seized in which one of the two speaks of an ISIS attack, implying this strengthened suspicions that something almost immediate and lethal was on the way.

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