Australian court finds man guilty of plotting to blow up airliner
An Australian court on Wednesday found a man guilty of plotting to blow up an Etihad Airways flight out of Sydney at the behest of the Islamic State militant group, by hiding a bomb in the luggage of his brother.
Police had accused the man, Khaled Khayat, and another brother, Mahmoud Khayat, of planning two terrorist attacks that also included a chemical gas attack on the flight to Abu Dhabi in July 2017, police said.
The third brother was unaware that he was carrying a bomb, disguised as a meat mincer, in his luggage, as he tried to check in at the airport, police said.
But the device was taken out of his luggage when it was deemed too heavy and the bomb never made it past airport security.
Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat were arrested weeks later after a series of raids in Sydney.
“The jury this afternoon returned a guilty verdict for Khaled and is still deliberating in respect of Mahmoud,” a spokeswoman for the New South Wales Supreme Court said.
Police had alleged that high-grade military explosives used to make the bomb were sent by air cargo from Turkey as part of a plot “inspired and directed” by Islamic state.
Khaled’s sentence hearing has been set for July 26. The charges carry a maximum punishment of life in prison.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in November the likelihood of a terror attack in Australia remained at the “probable” level, after a fatal stabbing in Melbourne that police said was inspired by Islamic State.
Australia has a five-level terror threat ranking system and “probable” is its midpoint. The threat likelihood has been set at probable since the system was introduced in 2015.
In December 2014, two hostages were killed during a 17-hour siege by a “lone wolf” gunman, inspired by Islamic State militants, in a cafe in Sydney.