‘Jihadis’ plotted meat mincer bomb attack to blow up flight
TWO would-be father and son terror teams linked by marriage are allegedly behind a plot to blow up an international flight out of Sydney using a homemade bomb disguised as a kitchen mincer.
Until last week the four men - the fathers aged in their 40s - were totally unknown to the nation's counter-terrorism authorities with only one conviction for negligent driving between them.
But that all changed when police picked up a "small piece of intelligence" about the possible "Islamist-inspired" plot to use a crude homemade bomb. It is believed the plot involved smuggling the device onto a flight bound for the Middle East, possibly Dubai, hidden in carry-on luggage.
With the men under surveillance, police decided to arrest them on Saturday because the risk to public safety was too high.
Five homes were raided in Surry Hills, Punchbowl, Wiley Park and Lakemba.
"There was a serious threat that had to be shut down," one senior officer said.
It is understood the plan was to use wood scrapings and explosive material inside a piece of kitchen equipment, such as a mincing machine.
Police seized several items from one home, including the bottom and top half of a domestic grinder and a box containing a "multi-mincer" used to make sausages. They also took away a number of handwritten notes, two phones, an iPad, two mobile phone SIM packs and vehicle registration and insurance papers.
Material to make a bomb, which was understood to be "ready to go", was allegedly found at a house in Cleveland St, Surry Hills, where one man was arrested. It is believed his son was also detained at a different address
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The other two men were arrested in Western Sydney, one in Lakemba dressed only in a towel.
Another theory reported last night was that the men were planning to bring down a plane by gassing the passengers. The Australian reported the explosive device would emit a toxic, sulphur-based gas that could kill or immobilise everyone on the aircraft.
The four have not yet been charged, with police applying to the Federal Court to hold them for up to seven days before they have to be charged or released under Commonwealth laws.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the threat of terror in Australian was "very real", as he beefed up security at all major airports around the country. Police are concerned that the men were cleanskins, unknown to them and not associated with known groups.
"With terrorism you can't wait, you can't wait to put the whole puzzle together, you do have to go early because if you get it wrong the consequences are severe," NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.
"You need to make the decision at some stage, when is the right time to go. Both (Australian Federal Police) and NSW Police agreed last night was the right time to go."
AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the plan was "Islamist-inspired" and likely targeted the aviation industry. "We do believe it is Islamic-inspired terrorism. I think this (threat) was credible," he said. There was shock in Surry Hills, where neighbours said the family had lived there since the 1970s. One neighbour said he was not aware of any extremist links.
"Never in my life would I have expected this ... they're a very nice family," he said.
At Lakemba, police locked down an entire apartment block, forcing residents to show ID cards to gain entry. Forensic teams carrying ladders and tools searched a mid-level unit and officers were seen digging in the garden. One neighbour said he often saw people in religious robes gather outside.
"You'd have 15 or 20 of them talking outside and they would all go into the unit together," he said.
One couple, who live in the Craig St, Punchbowl, unit raided on Saturday, said police stormed into their home about 5pm and left about 11.30pm. Neither of them was arrested.
The wife said her 66-year-old husband was on his iPad when police arrived and dragged him outside. She said she didn't know why police had searched their home. "We're not bad. We put scarf on, that's our religion ... you go to the church, I go to the mosque, that's it," she said.
A man arrested at Renown Ave, Wiley Park, lived in a unit with his brother and nurtured a community of about 15 stray cats, neighbours said.
"He was a strange man, he never looked at you in the eye when you spoke to him," one neighbour said.
- Additional reporting Nick Hansen, Danielle Gusmaroli and Jack Houghton