Aussie plane ‘target of terror plot’
AN Australian domestic airline - possibly a packed flight from Sydney to Melbourne or Brisbane - was going to be blown up in 2017 as part of a vile Islamic State terror plot, a Beirut court has heard.
The information has come from senior Islamic State fighter Tarek Khayat, sentenced to the death penalty in Iraq, in two confessions in recent months: one to Syrian Democratic Forces who caught him in Kurdish held territory in December 2017 and then a second one in Iraq.
Tarek Khayat is the brother of Amer Khyat, an Australian citizen who faces life imprisonment or the death penalty for his alleged role in the Barbie doll plot to blow up an Etihad flight from Australia to Abu Dhabi in July 2017, and a subsequent plot to disperse chemical weapons in a crowded place in Sydney.
Tarek Khayat said in his confession: "The plot originally was for a local plane and then it changed to an international one.
"They had a project of putting down planes in Australia but I don't know the details about it, and also to release chemical gases in Australia with a primitive device.''
But the Military Court in Lebanon, which has a copy of transcripts of the Tarek Khayat confessions, has heard that Tarek Khayat, 48, introduced another of his brothers to a senior Islamic State commander Abu Omar, real name Naji Qamar Eddin, to formulate the Sydney plane terror plans.
Abu Omar (who communicated with Khaled Khayat) is a bomb maker and chemical weapons expert for Islamic State.
Tarek Khayat also said in his confession that "my brother (Amer) has nothing to do with it'' and that he was just going to Lebanon to marry again.
Tarek Khayat also named another family member who facilitated communications between the plotters. This person was briefly detained by Australian Federal Police, but has since been released.
However there is a distinct breakdown in communications between Lebanon and Australia that has impacted on the fulsomeness of the evidence presented in Lebanon and could also impact on the future Australian trials. The Beirut Military Court has not received any information from the Australian government despite repeated requests since mid last year.
Amer Khyat's lawyer Jocelyn Adib Al-Rahi said that the information from Australia would not be forthcoming because Lebanon had the death penalty. Another court source confirmed to The Australian that Australia didn't want to co-operate because of a backlash from the Bali 9 sentencing.
"They won't give us any help because the police gave information to Indonesian authorities in regards to another case which had the death penalty; and because this case has the death penalty we wont get the information,'' the source said.
Meanwhile Amer Khayat's lawyer presented of a press conference held by the AFP deputy Michael Phelan where he said he believed Amer Khayat was innocent.
''If my client is guilty of an offence on Australian soil then why didn't the Australian authorities ask for extradition?'' she told the court.
Amer Khayat, 40, has denied the charges of plotting a terror attack, but admitted to the judge that a signed confession he made, but has since retracted, was not made under torture.
He is alleged to have carried two bombs - one contained in a meat mincer and another in a Barbie doll to Sydney airport, but he took the flight without them as his baggage was overweight.
The court heard yesterday that Islamic State operatives had tested the meat mincer being able to avoid security scanning in a series of tests at European airports.
The case has been adjourned to March 13.