Two Islamic State fighters allegedly connected to Australian terrorism – including a plot to blow up a plane leaving Sydney last year – have been captured in Iraq.
An Isis commander and Lebanese citizen, Tarek Khayat, and his Australian relative Ahmed Merhi were detained earlier this year, senior Australian officials have confirmed, the ABC reported on Wednesday.
he two was in close contact with some of Australia’s most notorious terrorism suspects from Syria but are believed to have moved to Iraq when Isis changed territories last year.
Tarek Khayat is alleged to have directed his Sydney-based brothers to smuggle a bomb hidden inside a meat grinder on to an Etihad plane due to depart from Sydney for Abu Dhabi on 15 July.
Four men were arrested in late July over the conspiracy.
Two of the four arrested – Khaled Khayat and his brother Mahmoud – have each been charged with two counts of planning or preparing a terrorist act.
A third man, Merhi, was charged with an unrelated weapons offence, and the fourth was released without charge.
Another Sydney-based brother, Amer Khayat, was alleged to have been carrying the improvised explosive device, although there are conflicting views on whether he was aware of what it was.
The bomb never made it on to the plane because it exceeded weight limits at the check-in counter.
A month after the arrests, Lebanon officials said Tarek Khayat had moved to the Isis stronghold of Raqqa in Syria and become a commander in the jihadist group more than 12 months earlier.
Since you’re here …
… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.