Three guilty over gun plot on Sydney army base

Three men were found guilty Thursday of plotting to attack a Sydney army base with high-powered weapons and kill as many people as possible to further the cause of Islam.

The Supreme Court in Melbourne heard that the men, who have been linked with Islamic extremists in Somalia, planned to continue their rampage at Sydney's Holsworthy army barracks until they were killed or captured.

Melbourne men Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, 34, Nayef El Sayed, 26 -- both of Lebanese descent -- and Somali Saney Edow Aweys, 27 were found guilty of conspiring to prepare for or plan a terrorist act between February 1 and August 4, 2009.

"Islam is truth religion. Thank you very much," Fattal told the jury.

No date was set for sentencing, but the three were ordered back to court on January 24 for an administrative hearing.

Meanwhile Somalis Abdirahman Mohamud Ahmed, 26, and Yacqub Khayre, 23, were found not guilty after the three-month trial. They hugged their co-defendants before leaving the dock.

"I think justice has been served," Ahmed said, adding that the three convictions were "unfortunate but this is God's will.

"I just want to tell them to be patient. They'll get out one day," he said.

Crown prosecutor Nick Robinson earlier said the plot was hatched between February and August 4 last year, when the five were arrested in a swoop involving hundreds of police in Melbourne.

He said one of the accused visited Somalia to seek a fatwa, or religious decree, for the attack, adding they had condemned Australia's involvement in the war in Afghanistan and believed the country was oppressing Muslims.

Robinson said the men believed Islam was under attack from several countries, including Australia, and wanted to advance their religion.

"If I find way to kill the army, I swear to Allah the great I'm going to do it," Fattal told undercover police, according to a transcript read to the court.

Justice Betty King had told the jury that the trial was not about Islam, but whether the accused had committed any offences.

The arrests highlighted security standards at army bases, and police said the alleged attack would have been the worst in Australian history.

It also prompted Canberra to list Somalia's Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab group as a terrorist organisation, although the outfit has denied any link to the plot.

Australia was a staunch supporter of ex-US leader George W. Bush's "war on terror" and sent troops to Iraq as well as Afghanistan, where about 1,550 personnel are currently based in the country's south.

Some 92 Australians were killed in the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, while three died in blasts at luxury hotels in July 2009 in Jakarta, where extremists also carried out a deadly car-bombing on Australia's embassy in 2004.

In February, five Muslims who plotted a guns-and-explosives attack on an unknown target in protest against Australia's part in the "war on terror" were jailed for up to 28 years, after the country's longest extremism trial.

And in September last year, an Australian convert to Islam was jailed for five years after admitting being part of a terror cell that plotted to kill thousands of people by bombing sports events.

Former forklift truck-driver Shane Kent was part of a group that planned to attack events including the Australian Football League's 2005 Grand Final, which attracted 92,000 fans.

Eight other men were earlier jailed for up to 15 years over the plot, including a radical Muslim cleric.

Also last September, an ex-airline worker was jailed for nine years for producing a do-it-yourself jihad manual including how-to guides on bomb-making, assassinations and shooting down planes.

 

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