Two suspects in a Sydney terrorism investigation were charged on Wednesday. Police suspect 24-year-old Omar al Kutobi and 25-year-old Mohammed Kiad of plotting a terrorist attack based on an ISIS flag, a machete, and a video in Arabic detailing the plot that were found in the apartment the men shared in Fairfield, a western suburb of Sydney.
Kiad and al Kutobi were arrested in a counterterrorism raid on their neighborhood. The two were not seen as a threat by local authorities and would have carried out their attack on Tuesday if they had not been arrested earlier that day. Some Australian media believe that the attack would have involved a beheading, but police are unwilling to confirm the rumor. They only stated that the attack would have involved a knife.
Investigators say that the attack would have been “catastrophic.” Reports indicate that the men intended to attack a police station. New South Wales state premier Mike Baird said that what was planned was “beyond disturbing.”
The information surrounding the terror plot is consistent with other plots involving or influenced by ISIS. In September, a known terror suspect was shot and killed when he attempted to stab two officers in Melbourne. There are also some similarities between this plot and the killing of British soldier Lee Rigby near an army barracks in London.
ISIS has been very successful in creating a following in Australia. In September, the Australian government raised its terror threat level and carried out numerous raids in Sydney and Brisbane. In December, an Iranian man with ties to the terrorist organization held 17 people hostage in a café for 16 hours. One hostage was killed before police were able to secure the building and another was killed by a stray police bullet. Terrorism experts are concerned that these small-scale attacks are becoming more common and almost impossible to detect before they are carried out.
The arrest and charges against the two Sydney terror suspects comes as a surprise to their families and neighbors. Neighbors say the men were quiet and extremely private, but had always been polite. They never expected that the pair would be involved in a terrorist plot. Al Kutobi’s father in Germany told reporters that his son was lonely. All he knew was that his son was working as a truck driver while attending nursing school. He also told reporters that his son loved Australia and became a citizen in 2013.
Since their arrest, an intelligence official has confirmed that Al Kutobi entered Australia using another person’s passport in 2009. Both suspects were granted visas and al Kutobi became a citizen. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that Australia must be more cautious about who it allows within its borders. He added that the government needs to make certain that immigrants are coming “for the right reasons” before being granted permanent residency or citizenship. In light of this new information, the Prime Minister has asked for a review of immigration procedures during the time frame in which the two men entered the country.
The two suspects charged in the Sydney terror investigation appeared in court on Wednesday. They did not apply for bail, which was formally denied, and are due to appear in court again on Thursday. Meanwhile, the government is on high alert. The Prime Minister believes that the terror threat in Sydney and throughout Australia can only get worse as ISIS expands its influence.
By Kirstin Pinto