Sunday, February 05, 2012

Homegrown Jihad in Australia

A lengthy article in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald reports on a terrorist jihad conspiracy that was recently thwarted in Australia. Based on the names mentioned in the article, the plot had a Mohammed Coefficient of at least 29%.

Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for uploading the accompanying video:

Below are some excerpts from the article itself:

The men were on a training and bonding exercise, armed with .308 and .22 rifles and components of an explosive device.

The Louth trip, said the Victorian Court of Appeal last June, was the most significant of several group exercises between two terrorist cells based in Sydney and Melbourne whose members pledged allegiance to Abdul Nacer Benbrika, an Algerian-born pensioner sheikh living in Melbourne.

Over two days in March 2005, the men pitched tents, lit campfires and shot at trees, leaving bullets in the trunks and spent shells on the ground.

They also left the burnt remains of a lantern battery attached to spark plugs, apparently a crude attempt to create an incendiary or sparking device. Other blunders included failing to take enough food and water, according to Gawel.

“The person that’s inclined to commit the politically motivated type offence is probably not the most practised criminal,” the NSW Police counter-terrorism and special tactics commander, Peter Dein, says.

“Therefore, you would probably not be surprised to see a lot of learning on the way as they’re building their particular capability.”

Victoria Police Detective Inspector Chris Murray, who investigated Benbrika, says the “Keystone cops” elements found in this group and another which plotted to stage a suicide attack on Sydney’s Holsworthy Army base do not detract from their serious implications to national security.

“Terrorist acts are by their nature simplistic and don’t need a lot of technology. They don’t need a lot of planning,” he says.

Twenty-one violent jihadists have been convicted and jailed over the past six years in a series of court cases which put the new home-grown brand of Australian terrorism on display after operations Pendennis and Neath, the two biggest joint ASIO-police investigations ever.

They culminated in December with 13½-year prison sentences for the Neath targets, Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, Saney Edow Aweys and Nayev El Sayed, over their Holsworthy plan.

Part of their motivation was anger over the jailing of the 18 men netted by Pendennis.

The 21 men and their accomplices changed Australia, but not with bombs or heavy artillery blasting a symbolic site as they had planned.

Instead, they have revolutionised counter-terrorism in this country.


“They were very advanced into their planning and preparation to commit a terrorist attack … There is no doubt about it. If they continued with their plans, there is every expectation that they were going to put something together and attempt to detonate it,” Dein says.

The timing device

Khaled Sharrouf, a zealot carrying a Nokia mobile bearing an American flag, “9/11” and a picture of Osama bin Laden, was caught by security guards when he tried to smuggle six clocks and 140 batteries out of the Chullora Big W store in empty potato chips boxes.

He pleaded guilty to possessing goods in preparation for a terrorist act. Sentencing him, NSW Supreme Court judge Anthony Whealy said the clocks could have been modified to create an electric circuit to detonate a bomb.

Sharrouf, diagnosed as a chronic schizophrenic as a result of drug use, told one psychiatrist he heard voices and sometimes went outside his house holding a bat at night looking for the source.

The detonators

Items found in the home toolbox of Moustafa Cheikho, who trained in Pakistan, included battery leads, electrical wire cut-offs, a switch and small bulbs apparently cut from a string of decorative lights. His computer held a file about a bombing device triggered by a mobile phone.

When police raided tradesman Mazen Touma’s Sydney home, they found 165 railway detonators, pistol and rifle cartridges, nails, shotgun shells, lengths of copper pipe — some fused at one end, 13 rounds of ammunition cut in half with the gunpowder removed. Police also seized 15 boxes containing 7500 rounds of ammunition for semi-automatic weapons from his van.


The lessons

Australia’s anti-terrorism laws, framed to catch Islamists who had “radicalised” and had seriously violent intent toward others, required new thinking by police and courts, according to Dein and Gawel.

Police had to learn to pin down the details of crimes before they are committed, because of the danger to the community, Gawel says.

For the first time, he says, courts recognised the process of radicalisation that takes place when a disaffected individual’s mindset becomes the driving factor in their acquisition of weapons and explosives.

Pendennis marked the turning point when counter-terrorism agencies realised they had to switch from a “need-to-know” to a “need-to-share” mentality about information, Dein says…

Read the rest in The Sydney Morning Herald.