Trio’s shopping spree for terror plot
CHILLING footage of a trio of wannabe terrorists plotting a massacre in Melbourne's CBD has been released by a court as the men now await sentence.
Abdullah Chaarani, 29, his cousin Hamza Abbas, 24, and friend Ahmed Mohamed, 27, are each facing life behind bars after being convicted by a Supreme Court jury of plotting the terror attack.
On Wednesday, Justice Christopher Beale released footage of the men recorded by covert police operatives.
They had practised making bombs with materials bought from Bunnings, Chemist Warehouse and Boating Camping and Fishing.
The trio, and their ringleader Ibrahim Abbas, hoped to kill scores of innocent Victorians.
While Hamza Abbas maintains his innocence, saying he was duped into taking part, the other men admit they were inspired by Islamic State.
At a two-day pre-sentence hearing this week, Chaarani and Mohamed both publicly denounced IS, a move the court heard was a possible world first for convicted terrorists.
The men each vehemently denied their involvement in the plot and pleaded not guilty, but were ultimately convicted by a jury of plotting the terrorist act.
The duo have since made full admissions, denounced IS, and waived their right to an appeal against their convictions.
"I believe wholeheartedly at that moment that prior to my arrest the views that I had were pretty, were very, extreme in fact and I had extreme leniency to the ISIS ideology and I needed help, I needed change and I needed it ASAP," Chaarani said yesterday.
"I'm disgusted at my actions. So is my family … what a disgusting path. I've renounced violent jihad, violent ISIS, extremist ideology, any extreme leniency, yeah."
Chaarani said he realised he'd made "a big mistake" from the moment he was arrested.
Justice Christopher Beale on Wednesday questioned Chaarani about his motives, saying cynical members of the public might accuse him of simply trying to reduce his sentence.
Justice Beale, who will sentence the men on November 29, said their offending was an "upper-range example of what is a very serious offence".
Chaarani and Mohamed are already serving 17-year minimum jail terms for having firebombed a Melbourne mosque.
The terror trio were co-conspirators of Ibrahim Abbas, who confessed to wanting to slaughter scores of Victorians as payback for Australia's war on Islamic State.
He planned to stage the attack around Federation Square, with St Paul's Cathedral and Flinders St station identified as possible targets.
Ibrahim pleaded guilty to planning an attack. He was jailed for 24 years, with a 20-year non-parole period.
The group planned to slaughter people with machetes and detonate bombs strapped to their bodies.
The men bought chemicals, explosive substances and other components to make a bomb, bought bladed weapons and conducted reconnaissance in the CBD.
The group was arrested on December 22, 2016, after months of surveillance by anti-terror police.
At the time authorities feared an attack was imminent.
Ibrahim, who told the court of his plan in chilling detail, had urged the group to act by Christmas Day of 2016.
"I wanted to make sure that the casualties would be high. The bigger the better," he said.
SHOPPING FOR TERROR ON SHELVES
They look like ordinary shoppers, but the men captured on video in everyday stores were planning a mass terror attack.
Inspired by Islamic State, the plotters aimed to kill as many Victorians as possible.
Had they succeeded, it would have been the most deadly terror attack on Australian soil.
The failed plotters spent months planning their massacre, doing everything they could to avoid detection, unaware that they were being monitored by authorities.
As they stockpiled a deadly toolkit they hoped would inflict maximum carnage, they turned to big-name stores in their preparations.
They had no idea they were being filmed shopping at Bunnings, Chemist Warehouse and Boating Camping Fishing when they went hunting for an inventory of weapons and bomb-making equipment.
The day before their arrest on December 22, 2016, ringleader Ibrahim Abbas and his cousin Abdullah Chaarani visited a BCF store to buy two 18-inch machetes.
They bought taps and pipe from Bunnings, and hydrogen peroxide from Chemist Warehouse, hoping they could use the ingredients to build a bomb. They failed miserably, later admitting they were too stupid to follow the bomb-making instructions they found online.
The everyday Victorians they were filmed shopping alongside had no reason to suspect the murderous plans of their fellow shoppers.
But one quick-thinking Bunnings employee helped to end their plot.
After Ahmed Mohamed bought 700 nail-gun cartridges filled with gunpowder from a Broadmeadows Bunnings in December 2016, police were alerted to the purchase, which was deemed suspicious.
They told the store attendant they were keen hunters.
Releasing the footage of the shopping sprees on Wednesday, Supreme Court justice Christopher Beale said learning what the shoppers had been up to could have a significant traumatic impact on members of the public. He ordered the faces of all but the wannabe terrorists be blurred to limit any potential harmful affects.
But he refused the release of footage of the men conducting reconnaissance at Federation Square, a site earmarked for a potential massacre.
"For some people, it might be distressing, to say the least, to see broadcast over the media footage of them near the accused men … when, on the prosecution case, they're plotting mass slaughter," Justice Beale said.