Holsworthy Barracks terror plot

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The Holsworthy Barracks terror plot was an alleged Islamist terrorist plot uncovered in August 2009 targeting Holsworthy Barracks—an Australian Army training area located in the outer south-western Sydney suburb of Holsworthy—with automatic weapons. The perpetrators planned on infiltrating the base and shooting as many army personnel and others as possible until they were killed or captured, but were arrested before their plans could be enacted.[1][2]

Arrests and trial[edit]

On 4 August 2009, four men allegedly connected with the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabaab were arrested and charged in association with the alleged terror plot. A fifth man was charged in the following days.[1][2][3] Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has since announced that the federal government has ordered a review of security at all military bases.[4] On 6 August 2009, a Daily Telegraph reporter and photographer were charged with taking a photograph of a defence installation after gaining entry to the military base.[5]

The accused are Saney Edow Aweys, Nayef El Sayed, Yacqub Khayre, Abdirahman Ahmed and Wissam Mahmoud Fattal. All five are identified as having attended the Preston Mosque, in Melbourne's northern suburbs. The mosque is the seat of Australia's leading Muslim cleric, Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam.[6] More recently, however, they had been attending the smaller 8 Blacks prayer hall, a former Snooker hall located behind a 7-Eleven store on Boundary Road, which is regarded by authorities as a key hub in Australia's militant Islamist network. All five had been part of the same religious "reading group" at the small mosque.[7]

According to police spokesmen, the suspects had been seeking a Muslim cleric willing to give a fatwa authorizing a jihad attack on an Australian military target.[8]

At his arraignment, Wissam Mahmoud Fattal refused to rise for magistrate Peter Reardon, saying that he would not rise to his feet for anyone but Allah. Fattal was led from the courtroom shouting that Australia was killing innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq and that "you call us terrorists - I've never killed anyone in my life."[9]

During the trial, 26 year old Saney Edow Aweys of Carlton North was one of the three men applying for bail in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court. He is also charged with aiding the commission of an offence by Walid Osman Mohamed in Somalia and preparing for incursions into Somalia for the purposes of engaging in hostile activities. Federal agent David Kinton told the court Aweys intended to travel to Somalia with two of his children.[10]

Related events[edit]

On 9 August 2009 the opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis called for al-Shabaab to be listed as a terrorist organisation in Australia.[11] Al-Shabaab has since been listed as a terrorist organisation by the Australian government.[12]

Evangelical church reverend Danny Nalliah planned to use the plot as an argument to explain that Christianity should be protected "as the core value of the nation" in his speech titled Is the West being de-Christianised?[13] delivered at the Australian Christian Nation Association Annual National Conference held on 21 November 2009 at the Assyrian Sport and Cultural Club, Fairfield Heights, Sydney.[14]


As a consequence of this and other recent incidents, the government of Australia is reconsidering its approach to the threat of terrorism and has announced that it will release a national security White Paper late in 2009.[15]

An editorial in The Daily Telegraph called attention to the wider problem of terrorism emanating from the "ungoverned," but heavily Islamist territory of Somalia. "If Somali-based terrorist groups can threaten Australia, then there is no limit to what they might do next."[16] 16,000 Somali immigrants live in Australia, and Australian authorities have been worried for some time about the close links some of their number maintain with Islamist and jihadi organizations and ideologies.[17]

Resolution of the Case[edit]

In Dec 2011 Justice Betty King sentenced three of the men to 18 years in prison, saying "The fact that Australia welcomed all of you, and nurtured you and your families, is something that should cause you all to hang your heads in shame that this was the way you planned to show your thanks for that support,"

She added that Fattal, Aweys and El Sayed were all unrepentant radical Muslims and would remain a threat to the public while they held extremist views. But of the three, only Fattal can be deported on his release from jail. His co-conspirators have Australian citizenship. [18]

Abdirahman Ahmed who was represented by Barrister John O'Sullivan and Doogue & O'Brien criminal lawyers was acquitted of all charges. His defence, that was accepted by the jury, was that he had in fact been trying to stop any act of terrorism occurring.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cameron Stewart and Milanda Rout, 5 August 2009. "Somali extremists on a 'fatwa order' from God". The Australian, Retrieved on 5 August 2009
  2. ^ a b Melissa Iaria, 4 August 2009. "Terror suspects 'sought holy approval'". News.com.au, Retrieved on 4 August 2009
  3. ^ Janet Fife-Yeomans and Carly Crawford, 5 August 2009. "Terror suspects 'sought holy approval'". NEWS.COM.AU. Retrieved on 5 August 2009
  4. ^ 5 August 2009. "Govt orders review of security at military bases". News.com.au, Retrieved on 5 August 2009
  5. ^ 6 August 2009. "Daily Telegraph journalists arrested at Holsworthy". NEWS.com.au, Retrieved on 7 August 2009
  6. ^ Terror accused 'prayed at mufti's mosque', Lauren Wilson and Drew Warne-Smith | 7 August 2009, The Australian, [1]
  7. ^ Somali terror suspects 'new to mosque', Drew Warne-Smith and Lauren Wilson | 6 August 2009, The Australian, [2]
  8. ^ 4 August 2009. "Islamists 'were seeking cleric's permission' for suicide plot". Times of London.
  9. ^ Holsworthy barracks 'was target' of Melbourne terror suspects, Herald Sun, MICHELLE DRAPER, MELISSA JENKINS, 5 August 2009 [3]
  10. ^ "Terror suspect 'hates Australians'". news.com.au. 25 August 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2009. 
  11. ^ 9 August 2009. "Call to list al-Shabaab as terror group". Retrieved on 9 August 2009
  12. ^ Al-Shabaab placed on terrorism list ABC Online 21 August 2009
  13. ^ Josephine Tovey, 10 August 2009, Sydney Morning Herald "Christian leaders plan anti-Islam conference". Retrieved on 18 August 2009.
  14. ^ [4]
  15. ^ Govt may revamp anti-terrorism laws, Sandra O'Malley, 11 August 2009, The Age, [5]
  16. ^ The Daily Telegraph, 4 Aug. 2009, "Somalia joins the threat to global security Telegraph View: Australian barracks plot signals fresh wave of terror." [6]
  17. ^ 4 August 2009, Islamists 'were seeking cleric's permission' for suicide plot, Times of London [7]
  18. ^ "Judge berates terrorists who were given refuge in Australia", Norie Ross, Herald Sun, Dec 17, 2011 [8]