Sydney, Australia | AFP | A man instructed by Islamic State to bring down an Etihad Airways flight tried to use an unsuspecting passenger to carry a bomb on board, with a second poisonous gas plot also in the works, Australian police alleged Friday.
The improvised device, using “high military-grade explosive”, was due to be smuggled onto a July 15 service from Sydney, but the attempt was aborted before they reached security.
Two men — Khaled Khayat and Mahmoud Khayat — have been charged with terrorism offences and were refused bail on Friday, with a third still being questioned.
Police claim one of them planted the bomb in the passenger’s luggage. Local reports said the luggage belonged to the man’s own, innocent, brother.
“We will be alleging the person who was to carry the IED had no idea they were carrying an IED,” said Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan.
“There is a little bit of conjecture as to why it didn’t go ahead. It didn’t get past the check-in.”
Police are working on the theory that it was called off because the device may have been too heavy.
Authorities also foiled a second alleged plot involving a “chemical dispersion device”, designed to release hydrogen sulphide, but this was in the early stages.
Hydrogen sulphide is highly toxic, and often fatal for people exposed to it.
“Not only have we stopped the IED that was believed to go on the plane but we have also completely disrupted the intended chemical dispersion device,” said Phelan.
The second plan was hatched after the first one failed, police alleged, and was not necessarily targeted at a plane.
“They were talking about crowded closed spaces, you know, potentially public transport, and so on,” Phelan said, but added that they “got nowhere near making one”.
The plot was orchestrated by “a senior member of the Islamic State” based overseas.
Communications with the extremist group began in April and they sent components and propellants through international cargo from Turkey to the men, police said.
The men were then directed on how to build a bomb that would have caused “significant damage”.
“With assistance from the ISIL commander, the accused assembled the IED into what we believe was a functioning IED to be placed on that flight,” said Phelan, referring to Islamic State by an alternative acronym.