Two brothers were handed lengthy prison terms in Australia on Tuesday for plotting to bring down a Sydney to Abu Dhabi flight with a bomb carried in a meat grinder by their unwitting brother — a plan that Israel’s military said it helped thwart.
Australian-Lebanese brothers Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat were convicted of terrorism offenses for trying to bomb an Etihad Airways passenger jet in July 2017 under instructions from the Islamic State terror group.
Khaled was sentenced to 40 years with a minimum of 30 years without parole, while Mahmoud received 36 years’ prison time of which he must serve at least 27.
The improvised device was to be smuggled inside the luggage of the third, unwitting brother.
A fourth brother, who is said to have fought with the Islamic State in Syria, was accused of directing the plot from overseas.
The plotters disapproved of the third brother “because he drank, went clubbing, gambled and was gay, which they regarded as bringing shame on the family,” judge Christine Adamson noted.
The plan was aborted at the airport when the plotters decided it was too risky to go through customs after airline staff said their bags were overweight.
In handing down her sentence, Adamson said despite no one being killed, the offenders had succeeded in “creating terror” because the public was made aware of the plot.
“The conspiracy to which both offenders were parties plainly envisaged that a large number of people would be killed,” she said.
In February 2018, the Israeli army revealed that the Military Intelligence Unit 8200 had provided “exclusive intelligence” that foiled the attack.
The revelation had been an unusual move for the Israel Defense Forces, which generally keeps mum on the operations of the secretive unit, which is similar to the American National Security Agency, collecting information from electronic communication, also referred to as signals intelligence.
On the same day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the unit for foiling the attack, adding that “this is just one of the dozens of terrorist attacks that we have stopped around the world.”
Australian police had no idea that the plans were in the works until they received the tip from Israel on July 26, 2017, according to the IDF. They arrested the men on July 29.
“This is one of the most sophisticated plots that has ever been attempted on Australian soil,” Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan told reporters at the time.
The components of the device they planned to use, including what Phelan described as a “military-grade explosive,” were sent by a senior Islamic State member to the men in Sydney via air cargo from Turkey. An Islamic State commander then instructed the two men on how to assemble the device, which police later recovered, Phelan said.
According to Australian authorities, when that attack failed, the suspects then planned to release highly toxic hydrogen sulfide gas in order to poison people. But they were arrested before their plot could advance significantly.