Thursday, December 23, 2010

Suicide mission to make mayhem

Norrie Ross
HeraldSun
December 23, 2010
OPERATION Martyrdom was to be 20 minutes of mayhem that would leave many Australian soldiers dead and their fanatical killers in a Muslim paradise.

Armed with high-powered weapons, three men planned to storm the lightly guarded Holsworthy army base in NSW, shooting at anyone in their sights until they were themselves gunned down.

The suicide mission would mean martyrdom for the terrorists and leave Australians reeling at the savage power of Islam and its capacity for revenge.

One plotter, Wissam "Omar" Fattal, of Melbourne, reconnoitred the base, walking along the perimeter fence and approaching the gatehouse, which was manned by unarmed private security guards.

His verdict?

"I stroll there. The work is easy," said Fattal in a secretly recorded conversation with fellow plotter Nayef El Sayed, who lived in Glenroy.

It was one comment in hundreds of hours of secretly taped conversations that the prosecution used to build a circumstantial case against the would-be terrorists.

The other man convicted of his part in the plot was Saney Edow Aweys, of Carlton.

Two co-accused - Yacqub Khayre and Abdirahman Ahmed - were acquitted yesterday of involvement in the planned attack.

Early in the plot, which ran for several months in 2009, Australian Federal Police agents began monitoring the suspects, recording their conversations and following their erratic movements as they sought a religious ruling to justify the carnage.

The men suspected they were being watched but kept going, talking in code, using password-protected email accounts and meeting in parks where they could not be recorded.

Work was used as a codeword for an attack. When he was in jail for an unrelated assault, Fattal said he did not want out of prison "until there is work to do".

The group suspected they'd been infiltrated, and again they were correct. But their loose tongues got the better of them and they continued to talk of jihad and killing Australians.

Their activities centred on the Preston mosque. It was there an undercover policeman they knew as Hamza befriended Fattal in November 2008.

Fattal felt an affinity for Hamza because the officer told him that he too was a Muslim convert. Fattal was unwise enough to talk about martyrdom with Hamza.

Initially, members of the group wanted to fight for jihad in countries such as Somalia and Afghanistan, but passport and other difficulties turned their attention to an attack on Australian soil.

The prosecution said they decided to bring jihad to Australia to punish the "infidels" for Australia's military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Aweys was recorded saying they would enter "the place where the military forces are stationed", fan out and "get as much as they could".

"In 20 minutes it would be enough to take out five, six, 10 and eight, whatever Allah know," he said.

A weys also summed up his devotion to his religion.

"There's nothing outside of religion. Everything is religion," he told police.

But the recordings also reveal doubts among the group, even as they radicalised. They needed religious approval, or a fatwa, for their actions and looked overseas, and specifically to Somalia, where there were clerics who endorsed terrorism in the cause of Islam.

The trial heard Mr Khayre travelled to Somalia to seek out clerics. But his defence team argued he was seeking religious enlightenment and it was never his intention to carry out jihad in Australia.

In many ways, the secret recordings also reveal the group to be rank amateurs.

The Crown case was that the five were committed to Islam, and it was something they often spoke of and included in their daily lives.

N one of the accused was born in Australia.

Fattal is a Lebanese national, and El Sayed was born there too, but is naturalised. Aweys, Mr Ahmed and Mr Khayre were refugees from Somalia.

Defence lawyers argued that some were concerned with the war in Somalia, and that the fatwa they were seeking was for committing fraud to support insurgents.

Fattal's lawyer, Patrick Tehan, QC, said Hamza had manipulated his client to try to get him to make threats against the Australian army.

It is clear from the recorded conversations that the plotters didn't fit in. They were dangerous outsiders who saw Australians as decadent and weak.

Aweys described Australians in secretly taped conversations as "filthy people".

He revelled in the global financial crisis, the drought, and in the Black Saturday bushfires.

The most fanatical was Fattal, a former kickboxer who objected to music being played at the building site where he worked because it was forbidden in Islam.

It was Fattal who was said to be the linchpin.

His original intention was to fly to Kenya and cross the border into Somalia, where he would fight for Islam.

But he was thwarted when he could not get a visa to enter Kenya, so he turned his attention to a possible terrorist attack in Australia.

H e obtained the address of Holsworthy and travelled there by train to check if it was a suitable target.

The prosecution alleged that Fattal had conversations with his mother in which he expressed a wish to use violence to advance the Islamic cause.

Speaking to his mother in Lebanon, Fattal said: "Don't you want paradise? Don't you want your son and yourself to go to paradise to the highest degree?"

Fattal's religion brought him no comfort. It was torture for him, living in a free society.

At this time Fattal wanted to travel to Somalia, and on December 31, 2008, he was booked to travel with three other Muslim men on a flight to Nairobi. But airline staff discovered he did not have a visa for Kenya and he was not allowed to board.

El Sayed spoke to Somali sheiks by phone and kept information flowing between members of the group.

Aweys had strong links to Somalia and knew sheiks. He had contact by phone with one sheik seeking a fatwa.

But the motley group never obtained weapons. They never got further than talking about their plans and, thanks to the federal police and security agencies, their evil plan blew up in their faces
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