TerrorismTwo ISIS supporters arrested in Australia for planning a public beheading in Sydney

Published 19 September 2014

Yesterday (Thursday), the Australian security services, conducting the largest counterterrorism raids in the Australia’s history, arrested fifteen ISIS supporters, charging two of them with planning to grab an Australian citizen and publicly behead him on a Sydney street – while filming the operation for posting on social media. The government says about 100 Australians are actively engaged in activities within Australia aiming to support extremist Islamist groups — recruiting fighters, grooming suicide bomber candidates, and providing funds and equipment.

Since 8 August, when the United States launched its air campaign against ISIS targets in Iraq while, at the same time, trying to put together an international coalition to fight and defeat the Islamist group, senior members of Islamic State have been urging the group’s supporters in the West to carry out attacks against citizens of states likely to join the U.S.-led coalition.

Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott, speaking earlier yesterday (Thursday) after the largest counterterrorism raids in the Australia’s history, said that ISIS called on its supporters in Australia to grab citizens in Australia’s major cities and behead them in public.

The planned public attack would have been similar to the murder of Lee Rigby, a British soldiers who was attacked and killed in May 2013 by two Nigerian-born Muslim converts near the Royal Artillery Barracks in southeast London.

More than 800 police officers were involved in raids in Sydney’s north-west early Thursday morning, detaining fifteen people.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that two men were charged and nine people released. Under Australia’s counterterrorism laws, those detained could be held for two weeks without charge.

One of the two men, Omarjan Azari, 22, appeared in Sydney central court on Thursday afternoon to face charges of preparing to commit a terrorist act. The police said he conspired to commit the public beheading with the help of another man, Mohammad Baryalei, a former Sydney bouncer and actor of Afghan origin.

The Australian intelligence service said Baryalei is believed to be the highest-ranking Australian in Islamic State.

Separately, a 24-year-old man from Merrylands in western Sydney was arrested on charges of possessing an unauthorized weapon and possessing ammunition without a license.

Australia’s attorney general, George Brandis, said an undercover operation had been under way since May. He told Australia’s ABC TV that had it not been for Thursday’s arrests, the beheadings would have gone ahead today or tomorrow (Friday).

“If ASIO [Australian Security Intelligence Organization] and the AFP [Australian Federal Police] and the Queensland and NSW [New South Wales] police had not acted today there is a likelihood this would have happened,” Brandis said.

In papers filed in court, the prosecution said Azari planned to “shock, horrify and potentially terrify” the public with public killings. He was refused bail.

His next court appearance was set for 13 November.