Tuesday, November 28, 2017

28-Nov-17: In Melbourne, a would-be terrorist shooter is in police hands

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In Australia, there's a breaking story about major terrorism thwarted by alert police action. This report comes from Australia's ABC Online:
A man has faced court charged with terrorism offences after allegedly trying to get a gun and plotting to "shoot as many people as he could" on New Year's Eve. Ali Khalif Shire Ali, 20, from Werribee, was arrested at a home in Melbourne's south-west just before 3:00 pm on Monday. He appeared before Melbourne Magistrates' Court this afternoon charged with preparing to commit a terrorist attack and gathering documents to facilitate a terrorist act. He was described by police as one of their "high persons of interest", and the charges relate to actions Mr Ali took between March and April this year, and in June. Earlier, Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said they believed Mr Ali was trying to get an automatic rifle to "shoot and kill as many people as he could" around Federation Square, in Melbourne's CBD [Central Business District], during New Year's Eve celebrations. Police said they moved in today because he had been having face-to-face meetings about getting a gun. Mr Ali, who police said was connected to other extremists, did not manage to obtain one, Deputy Commissioner Patton said.
Federation Square is one of the most popular spots in Melbourne to bring in the new year. Mr Ali is an Australian citizen with Somalian parents.
Another source, Melbourne Herald-Sun, describes him as "born in Australia to Somalian parents" who has lived in Victoria (the state of which Melbourne is the capital) all his life, and whose "extremist behaviour gradually escalated over time". There's something vaguely familiar about the newspaper's recounting of the accused's ordinariness:
The young man attends prayer regularly with his family at Virgin Mary [sic] mosque in Werribee. Worshippers described the family as decent members of the community and they had not noticed anything suspicious about his behaviour... The suspect’s boss Warsame Hassan said he had been working at his Footscray computer business part-time for about three months to learn new skills and had not shown any signs of radicalisation. Mr Hassan said the young man often asked to use a computer in the back of the store and usually explained that it was to sell and buy on website eBay. He had not shown any worrying behaviour, Mr Hassan said. “If I had (noticed any) then I would have told the police,” he said. “It’s very sad, it’s a shock. "He is a very quiet guy,” said Mr Hassan. “This is an absolute shock.” He said he had not been to work for about a fortnight. Detectives raided the business yesterday afternoon and seized a computer which had been used by the suspect. [Melbourne Herald-Sun, today]
The local Somali community is worried:
Somali youth leaders have condemned Mr Ali’s alleged actions. “I’m here to reassure the Australian wider community that as Australian Somalis we obviously are shocked ourselves,” Ahmed Dini said. “We want to stand together and we want to make sure that these actions never take place.” The radicalisation of disenfranchised youth was a “global threat”, the youth leaders said at a press conference today, and high unemployment and lack of education could make Australia’s Somalian youth particularly vulnerable. Mr Dini said global terror groups had easy access to youth through the internet. “When some young person excludes themselves from society... they become friends with the internet and you can find a lot of dark things on the internet,” Mr Dini said. “We’re calling upon government and also our friends in the Australian community ... help us, support us in making sure that we do what ever we can to build the capacity of our youth.” [Melbourne Herald-Sun, today]
Dini is not described any further in the article. We found these background details.

Somalis have been immigrating to Australia in significant numbers since the early 1990s in the wake of the outbreak of civil war in their country. About 80 per cent arrived under Australia's Refugee and Special Humanitarian Program. Most live in Melbourne's suburbs. A 2016 source says they number two to three thousand.

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