An alleged terror plot to bring down a plane may have involved an improvised bomb inside a meat grinder or poisonous gas, but authorities remain tightlipped about what they have found as the investigation continues.
Detectives spent yesterday scouring five properties in the Sydney suburbs of Surry Hills, Lakemba, Wiley Park and Punchbowl that were raided on the weekend.
The men named in media as fathers and sons Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat and Khaled and Abdul Merhi continue to be questioned at Sydney city police station after being arrested on Saturday.
They have strong links to Islamic State figures, according to the ABC which reported Khaled Khayat’s brother is believed to be a senior IS figure, while the other two men are related to Ahmed Merhi, who travelled to Syria in 2014.
“We’re obviously looking at the links they have to the organisation within the Middle East,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan told the ABC’s 7.30 yesterday.
News Corp Australia reports the group planned to use either a bomb hidden inside a meat grinder or a device to disseminate poisonous gas on board a plane.
“I don’t want to go into the detail but . . . there was a significant threat that federal police, ASIO, New South Wales police and other agencies dealt with and are in the process of dealing with,” Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the conspiracy as “a very serious terrorist plot” but refused to elaborate. He also would not confirm reports an overseas tip-off triggered the raids.
“Good intelligence, great police work, great investigation, great
co-ordination has enabled us to disrupt that plot,” Turnbull told reporters in Perth.
The ABC claimed the tip-off came from a foreign intelligence agency that intercepted communication to the conspirators from Syria.
The British government was reportedly about to issue a public security alert for travel to Australia when police swooped in Sydney.
Federal police seized part of a domestic meat grinder and a box containing a multi-mincer for making sausages from one of the men’s homes, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The conspiracy may have involved smuggling the grinder in hand luggage on to a flight from Sydney to the Middle East.
After rifling through garbage bins at a property in Lakemba yesterday, police also found airline documentation known as a flight release slip relating to a Sydney to Jakarta flight.
Police are also reportedly concerned the men are so-called “cleanskins” with no previous association to a known group.
Australian National University criminologist Clarke Jones believed the poisonous gas theory was less likely than the grinder plot and suggested the latter was “amateurish” in nature.
“If it was to be hand luggage, that’s a very crude plan and shows a lack of experience and the fact that they might not have travelled a great extent,” he said.
Meanwhile, travellers at Australian airports spent the day dealing with lengthy delays due to heightened security procedures.
A magistrate on Sunday granted police an additional period of detention meaning the four suspects can be held for up to a week without charge. AAP