Australia's home-grown Muslim terrorists
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Australia's home-grown Muslim terrorists

Mohamed Ali Elomar, Khaled and Moustafa Cheikho, Abdul Rakib Hasan and Mohammed Omar Jamal were part of a nine-man terrorist cell that planned to attack an unspecified Sydney target.

They were found guilty by a jury on October 16, 2009, and judge Anthony Whealy ordered the men serve the longest jail sentences for terrorism offences in Australia.

The terrorist group ordered or bought hundreds of litres of chemicals which could be used to make explosives. They also bought firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunitions from gun shops in western Sydney.

The five were part of a nine-man cell with had links to a Victorian terrorist network. At least one Sydney member was close to Abdul Nacer Benbrika, a Melbourne extremist since jailed over a plot to blow up targets including the MCG.

All nine members of the Sydney cell were arrested in an investigation involving the NSW Police, ASIO and others.

The preparation for the terrorist act occurred between July 2004 and November 2005, their trial was told.

Four of the nine admitted terrorism offences and were jailed for five to 18 years.

They were Mirsad Mulahalilovic, Khaled Sharrouf, Mazen Touma and Omar Baladjam, a former actor who appeared on Home and Away and ABC drama Wildside.

The other five entered pleas of not guilty on November 3, 2008. Justice Whealy described the 11-month trial as one of the most traumatic of his career.

Crown prosecutors called 231 witnesses, including experts in DNA, fingerprinting, handwriting, ballistics and computer forensics.

The case ended on February 15, 2010, when Justice Whealy sentenced the five, who came from Sydney suburbs including Punchbowl and Lakemba.

Justice Whealy said the five "do appear to wear their imprisonment like some kind of badge of honour".

Family Connections

Family connections and friendships are at the core of the terrorist networks active in Australia over the past 12 years, a Monash University researcher has found.

Most of the 57 people identified were recruited through close contact with friends or relatives involved in extremist groups.

Shandon Harris-Hogan drew maps of the links between violent jihadists in Australia, including people deported on security grounds, or reported missing or dead while engaged in terrorist activities overseas.

Trained in Pakistan ... Sydney member Moustafa Cheikho.

Trained in Pakistan ... Sydney member Moustafa Cheikho.

The pattern he found is in keeping with studies of Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Turkish terrorists, which revealed that about one in five involved individuals were direct kin, while seven in 10 were close friends as youths.

''You keep getting the same names,'' he said. ''A lot have intermarried into each other's families and have been convicted or involved in the same plots together.''

Mr Harris-Hogan, who had access to transcripts of police recordings from Operation Pendennis, Australia's biggest terrorism investigation, found within the 15-member Melbourne cell led by Abdul Nacer Benbrika, now in jail,was a clique that included brothers, a cousin and a close childhood friend of Fadl Sayadi, a Benbrika lieutenant.

Inside Operation Pendennis

Moustafa Cheikho, from the Sydney cell, and his uncle, Khaled Cheikho, trained with Laksha e-Taiba in Pakistan. Khaled Cheikho was married to a relative of the terrorist associate Rabiyah Hutchinson.

Mohammed Omar Jamal, also convicted as part of the Sydney cell, is the brother of Saleh Jamal, who left Australia on a false passport in 2004, then spent two years in a Lebanese prison for terrorism offences. The Sydney cell leader, Mohamed Ali Elomar, is related to Hussein El Omar, who has appealed against a conviction for terrorism offences in Lebanon.

Of the 57 jihadists whose back- ground he has studied, 24 trained in camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, Malaysia or the Philippines. Since a US clampdown on militia camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, the focus had shifted to Lebanon and Somalia, he found.

His colleague at the university's global terrorism research centre, Andrew Zammit, has found that six in 10 of those who have faced terrorism charges in Australia have been Muslims of Lebanese descent, a phenomenon unique to this country.

Of 33 alleged jihadists in Australia since the September 11 attacks in the US, 20 were of Lebanese descent, while at least 16 Australians have been arrested in Lebanon over alleged terrorist activity, he found.

Another terrorism analyst, Sam Mullins, a research fellow at Wollongong University's centre for transnational crime prevention, said that the preponderance of terrorists of Lebanese heritage reflected Australia's immigration history.

 Rabiah Hutchinson

Sydney mother Rabiah Hutchinson had her passport cancelled after returning from Iran in 2003, because of her links with al-Qa'ida and Indonesian militant group Jemaah Islamiah.

The ASIO assessment says Ms Hutchinson "has directly supported extremist activities" and, if allowed to travel, is "likely to engage in conduct that might prejudice the security of Australia or a foreign country".

Ms Hutchinson married a member of al-Qa'ida's governing shura (council), Mustafa Hamid, known as Abu Walid al-Masri, and was asked by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to set up a new women's hospital in Kandahar. One of her closest friends was Zawahiri's wife, who was later killed in the US bombing of Afghanistan.



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