Holsworthy Barracks terror plot

The Holsworthy Barracks terror plot was an Islamist terrorist plot uncovered in August 2009 targeting Holsworthy Barracks—an Australian Army training area located in the outer south-western Sydney suburb of Holsworthy—with automatic weapons. The perpetrators planned to infiltrate the base and shoot as many army personnel and others as possible until they themselves were killed or captured; but they were arrested before they could carry out their plan.[1][2]

One of the men acquitted in 2009 went on to kill a man and shoot three police officers in June 2017.

Initial investigation edit

In 2007, the Australian Federal Police launched Operation Rochester to investigate reports of Somali-Australians traveling to fight for al-Shabaab against the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government. That investigation ended because not enough evidence could be gathered to press charges. Operation Neath began in February 2009 as another investigation into al-Shabab support, with around 20 people—including Saney Aweys, Wissam Fattal and Nayef el-Sayed—suspected of assisting the Somali jihadist movement. By 2009, this small support network had expanded beyond the Somali diaspora in Australia to include people of other backgrounds, mainly from Middle Eastern countries who lacked the nationalist element in their motivation.[3]

The investigation of the group, dubbed Operation Neath, involved members of the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, Defence Security Authority and ASIO. It was launched in late January 2009.[4]

Arrests and trial edit

On 4 August 2009, four men connected with the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabaab were arrested and charged in association with a terror plot. A fifth man was charged in the following days.[1][2][5] Prime Minister Kevin Rudd later said that the federal government had ordered a review of security at all military bases.[6] On 6 August 2009, a Daily Telegraph reporter and photographer were charged with taking a photograph of a defence installation after gaining entry to the military base.[7]

The perpetrators were Saney Edow Aweys, Nayef El Sayed, Yacqub Khayre, Abdirahman Ahmed and Wissam Mahmoud Fattal. All five were identified as having attended the Preston Mosque, in Melbourne's northern suburbs. The mosque is the seat of Australia's leading Muslim cleric, Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam.[8] They had later been attending the smaller 8 Blacks prayer hall, a former snooker hall located behind a 7-Eleven store on Boundary Road, which is regarded by authorities as a key hub in Australia's militant Islamist network. All five had been part of the same religious "reading group" at the small mosque.[9]

According to police spokesmen, the suspects had been seeking a Muslim cleric willing to give a fatwa authorising a jihad attack on an Australian military target.[10]

At his arraignment, Wissam Mahmoud Fattal refused to rise for magistrate Peter Reardon, saying that he would not rise to his feet for anyone but Allah. Fattal was led from the courtroom shouting that Australia was killing innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq and that "you call us terrorists – I've never killed anyone in my life."[11]

During the trial, 26-year-old Saney Edow Aweys of Carlton North was one of the three men applying for bail in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court. He was also charged with aiding the commission of an offence by Walid Osman Mohamed in Somalia and preparing for incursions into Somalia for the purposes of engaging in hostile activities. Federal agent David Kinton told the court Aweys intended to travel to Somalia with two of his children.[12]

Related events edit

On 9 August 2009, the opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis called for al-Shabaab to be listed as a terrorist organisation in Australia;[13] this was done.[14]

Evangelical church reverend Danny Nalliah planned to use the plot as an argument to explain that Christianity should be protected "as the core value of the nation" in his speech titled Is the West being de-Christianised?[15] delivered at the Australian Christian Nation Association Annual National Conference held on 21 November 2009 at the Assyrian Sport and Cultural Club, Fairfield Heights, Sydney.[16]

Impact edit

As a consequence of this and other incidents, the government of Australia reconsidered its approach to the threat of terrorism and announced that it would release a national security White Paper late in 2009.[17]

An editorial in The Daily Telegraph called attention to the wider problem of terrorism emanating from the "ungoverned," but heavily Islamist territory of Somalia. "If Somali-based terrorist groups can threaten Australia, then there is no limit to what they might do next."[18] 16,000 Somali immigrants live in Australia, and Australian authorities have been worried for some time about the close links some of their number maintain with Islamist and jihadi organisations and ideologies.[10]

Outcome edit

In December 2011, Justice Betty King sentenced three of the men to 18 years in prison, saying that they should be ashamed for their ingratitude to Australia. She added that Fattal, Aweys and El Sayed were all unrepentant radical Muslims and would remain a threat to the public while they held extremist views. Fattal can be deported on his release from jail, but his co-conspirators are Australian citizens.[19]

Abdirahman Ahmed and Yacqub Khayre were acquitted.[20]

Khayre, who had a long-standing drug addiction, went on committing criminal offences and serving time in prison. Authorities did not associate him with terrorism again until he orchestrated the 2017 Brighton siege, taking a hostage in a serviced apartment complex and murdering the complex clerk. He enticed police to the complex and made references to Islamic terrorist groups before confronting police in a shoot-out and was killed.[21]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b Cameron Stewart and Milanda Rout (5 August 2009) "Somali extremists on a 'fatwa order' from God". The Australian, Retrieved on 5 August 2009
  2. ^ a b Melissa Iaria, 4 August 2009. "Terror suspects 'sought holy approval'". news.com.au, Retrieved on 4 August 2009
  3. ^ "The Holsworthy Barracks Plot: A Case Study of an Al-Shabab Support Network in Australia". 21 June 2012.
  4. ^ "Police swoop on Melbourne homes after Somali Islamists' terror plot exposed" (PDF).
  5. ^ Janet Fife-Yeomans and Carly Crawford, 5 August 2009. "Terror suspects 'sought holy approval'". news.com.au, Retrieved on 5 August 2009
  6. ^ 5 August 2009. "Govt orders review of security at military bases". news.com.au, Retrieved on 5 August 2009
  7. ^ 6 August 2009. "Daily Telegraph journalists arrested at Holsworthy". news.com.au, Retrieved on 7 August 2009
  8. ^ Lauren Wilson and Drew Warne-Smith (7 August 2009) Terror accused 'prayed at mufti's mosque' The Australian,
  9. ^ Drew Warne-Smith and Lauren Wilson (6 August 2009)Somali terror suspects 'new to mosque', The Australian
  10. ^ a b "Islamists 'were seeking cleric's permission' for suicide plot". Times of London. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  11. ^ Michelle Draper, Melissa Jenkins (5 August 2009) Holsworthy barracks 'was target' of Melbourne terror suspects. Adelaide Now. Retrieved on 10 March 2015
  12. ^ "Terror suspect 'hates Australians'". news.com.au. 25 August 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  13. ^ 9 August 2009 "Call to list al-Shabaab as terror group". news.com.au, Retrieved on 9 August 2009
  14. ^ Al-Shabaab placed on terrorism list ABC Online ABC/AAP. 21 August 2009, Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  15. ^ Josephine Tovey, 10 August 2009, Sydney Morning Herald "Christian leaders plan anti-Islam conference". Retrieved on 18 August 2009.
  16. ^ http://www.cdp.org.au/component/jnews/mailing/view/listid-3/mailingid-997/listype-1.html www.cdp.org.au Christian Democratic Party (Australia) Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Sandra O'Malley (11 August 2009) Govt may revamp anti-terrorism laws The Age,
  18. ^ "Somalia joins the threat to global security Telegraph View: Australian barracks plot signals fresh wave of terror". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney). 4 August 2009. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  19. ^ Ross, Norie (17 December 2011). "Judge berates terrorists who were given refuge in Australia". Herald Sun. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  20. ^ Rintoul, Stuart (24 December 2010). "Freed Somali Abdirahman Ahmed vows to continue the fight". The Australian. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  21. ^ "Brighton siege: Melbourne police launch terror probe after deadly stand-off with Holsworthy plot gunman". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 6 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.