Trio guilty of Sydney terror plot
Published 23/12/2010 | 03:42
Three men who believed Islam was under threat from Western nations have been convicted of plotting a suicide attack against a Sydney army base.
The men, Australian citizens of Somali or Lebanese origin, could face life in prison after their conviction at Victoria state's supreme court of conspiring to plot a terrorist attack. Two other men were found not guilty of the same charge.
The five men were arrested in pre-dawn raids in Melbourne last year. Police said the group planned to send a team of men with automatic rifles on a suicide attack against Holsworthy Barracks, an army base on the outskirts of Sydney.
Officials said the men were motivated by a belief that Islam was under attack from the West and planned to keep on shooting until they were killed.
During the trial, prosecutors said the men were upset about Australia's involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Australia became a staunch US ally in the war on terrorism after the September 11 2001 attacks.
Prosecutors said one of the men visited Somalia in the hope of gaining approval for the attack from an Islamic cleric. The men were accused of having ties to al-Shabab, Somalia's powerful al Qaida-linked militia group.
Had the plot been successful, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said it would have been the most serious attack carried out in Australia.
Terrorism is extremely rare in Australia, though dozens of Australians have died in attacks overseas, mostly in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings.
The trial began in September and the jury deliberated for more than five days before returning guilty verdicts against Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, 34, Saney Edow Aweys, 27, and Nayef El Sayed, 26. Abdirahman Mohamud Ahmed, 26, and Yacqub Khayre, 23, were found not guilty.
Justice Betty King remanded Fattal, Aweys and El Sayed in custody until they appear in court again on January 24.