In the news yesterdayhttp://www.theaustralian.com.au/nationa ... 36ec3e8842
A family of suspected Islamist extremists allegedly plotted to bring down an Australian commercial jet by gassing the passengers, in what authorities believe was a major terrorist attack plan orchestrated by Islamic State militants from within Syria.
Travellers were warned last night to expect major delays at the nation’s airports as authorities rolled out extra security measures to counter what sources said was a fast-moving, still unfolding terror conspiracy, the full extent of which was not yet known.
Four Lebanese Australians — two fathers and two sons — were in custody after police swooped on the cell and thwarted what they will allege was a sophisticated attempt to kill hundreds of people by crashing a civilian plane.
Airports around the country were on heightened alert as counter-terrorism police worked to learn all they could about the operation. It was only on Wednesday that police received intelligence about the alleged cell from authorities overseas.
Malcolm Turnbull described the alleged plot as “major’’ and “elaborate’’ and said the government would impose extra security on airports across the country.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the weekend’s operation involved men from Sydney who it was feared were plotting to smuggle an improvised explosive device aboard a long-haul passenger flight destined for the Middle East.
“At this time, we don’t have a great deal of information on the specific attack, the location, date or time. However, we are investigating information indicating that the aviation industry was potentially a target of that attack,’’ Mr Colvin said.
The Australian has been told the men were allegedly constructing a “non-traditional’’ device, one that would kill the occupants of the plane with poisonous gas. Multiple sources have told The Australian the four, who were related by blood and marriage, were constructing an explosive device that could have emitted a toxic, sulphur-based gas that would have killed or immobilised everyone on the aircraft.
It is understood the device was in the final stages of readiness, prompting police to swoop. It is understood the men were not known to counter-terrorism police before the weekend’s operation, with the most serious matter against any of the four being a negligent driving offence.
Yet at some point the men appear to have allegedly become highly radicalised.
The four men were arrested on Saturday after heavily armed NSW police officers raided five properties, two in Punchbowl, one in Lakemba and one in Wiley Park — all in Sydney’s southwest — and one in inner-city Surry Hills. The Australian has been told the men are dual nationals.
Because of tightened security, travellers embarking on international flights were being told last night to arrive three hours ahead of schedule while domestic passengers were advised to allow two hours to clear security.
Passengers were also told to limit their carry-on baggage as a means of reducing travelling delays.
“Some of the measures will be obvious to the public, some will not be,” the Prime Minister said.
“Travellers should be prepared for additional scrutiny at screening points and while it is important that Australians are aware of the increased threat, be assured we have the finest security and intelligence services in the world.’’
Two police officers guarded the front of the raided terrace house in Surry Hills yesterday, while several forensic officers were still examining items taken from the premises, in a lane at the back sealed off by riot squad vehicles.
It is understood several items, including a mincer and a domestic grinder, were retrieved from the raided properties, with the suggestion being they were to be used to build an improvised explosive device to be smuggled on to a plane.
While the big Lebanese-Australian communities in Sydney are in the outer west and southwest, many of whom came fleeing the civil war of 1975-90, those in Surry Hills formed the first nucleus in the 1950s and 60s.
Local members of the Surry Hills Lebanese community, who described themselves as fairly harmonious among their Christian, Sunni Muslim and Shia Muslim members, said yesterday they were stunned that police anti-terror raids more often associated with the larger Lebanese-Australian populations in western Sydney had come to their suburb on the CBD’s southeastern fringe.