(CNSNews.com) – An “Islamic-inspired” terror plot foiled in Australia in recent days involved an effort to detonate a bomb – built with “military-grade explosive” supplied by an ISIS commander in Syria – on a commercial airliner, and a second plan, aimed at creating an “improvised chemical dispersion device” to use in an attack, police revealed on Friday.
They said one of two men who appeared in court Friday on terror charges allegedly intended his brother – who was unaware of the plot – to carry the improvised explosive device (IED) onto an Etihad flight from Sydney to the Middle East on Saturday, July 15.
“We will be alleging the person who was to carry the IED on the plane had no idea they were going to be carrying an IED,” Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Michael Phelan told reporters in Sydney.
After the plan was aborted – police are reportedly investigating whether the accused man changed his mind while seeing his brother off at the Etihad check-in counter, or if the bag was found to be too heavy – the plotters worked on an alternative one, involving a device to disperse poisonous gas.
“We will allege that these individuals attempted to create an improved chemical device that was designed to release highly-toxic hydrogen sulphide,” Phelan said.
He stressed that while precursor chemicals and components as well as evidence of experimentation had been found during police searches in recent days, the accused were at the time of their arrest “a long way away from having a functional device.”
“The threat from terrorism is real,” Phelan said. “We have been saying for a long time that it is not only low-capability lone actors that we have to worry about; we also have to worry about sophisticated plots.”
“This is one of the most sophisticated plots that has ever been attempted on Australian soil,” he added.
Had it not been for the “great work” of intelligence and law enforcement agencies, Phelan said, “we could very well have had a catastrophic event in this country.”
Two Sydney men, Khaled Mahmoud Khayat, 49, and Mahmoud Khayat, 32, appeared in court Friday charged with two counts of acting in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act. They will reappear in November. A third man, who is related to them, remains in detention but has yet to be charged.
Police said the explosive used to build the bomb had been supplied by an ISIS terrorist in Syria, and sent to Australia via air cargo from Turkey.
Etihad flies directly from Sydney to Abu Dhabi and to Dubai on Saturdays, using Boeing 777-300s and Airbus A380-800s, two of the world’s largest passenger aircraft.
Phelan said police were confident they had secured all the components of the IED during the searches. “At no stage did the IED breach airline security.”
Meanwhile, the U.S.-led anti-ISIS military coalition announced Thursday that over recent weeks airstrikes in Syria have killed several ISIS leaders involved in planning terrorist attacks around the world.
Among them were Abd al-Ghafur and his assistant, Abu Hammam, killed in airstrikes in Syria on July 24 and July 16 respectively.
“Abd Al-Ghafur and Abu Hammam were responsible for managing and directing external operations attacks and participated in attack plotting against the Middle East and Western targets,” Combined Joint Taskforce–Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR) said in a statement.
“Their removal deprives ISIS of well-connected members with links to trans-regional terror support networks.”
A July 13 airstrike killed ISIS bombmaker Abu Futtum, who CJTFOIR said was “part of ISIS' network that instructs and incites others to take the same destructive actions, encouraging lone wolf attacks across the globe using homemade explosives.”
A June 7 airstrike killed Lavdrim Muhaxheri, an ISIS terrorist from Albania who was responsible for planning numerous terrorist attacks, including a failed plot to bomb a soccer match between Albania and Israel last November.
An associate of Muhaxheri, named at Jetmir Ismaili, was killed in a late June airstrike.
“Ismaili had key connections with ISIS external terror attack planners in Europe and Syria, and personally planned and coordinated external ISIS terror attacks,” the coalition said.