Three men were found guilty yesterday 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 Austrlian 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.
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 Feb. 1 and Aug. 4 last year.
“Islam is truth religion. Thank you very much,” Fattal said to the jury.
No date was set for sentencing, but the three were ordered back to court on Jan. 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 Aug. 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 offenses.
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 organization, although the outfit has denied any link to the plot.
Australia was a staunch supporter of former US president 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.
About 92 Australians were killed in the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, while three died in blasts at luxury hotels in Jakarta in July last year, 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.