TWO men believed to be brothers have been charged over an alleged plot to bomb a domestic flight out of Sydney.

Khaled Khayat, 49, of Lakemba, and Mahmoud Khayat, 32, of Punchbowl, have each been charged by the NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team with two counts of acts done in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act.

Both men are due to appear in Parramatta Local Court on Friday to face the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of life in jail.

They are two of the four men arrested in raids across Sydney last Saturday.

 

Khaled Khayat. One of the two men due to face Parramatta Court on Friday.
Khaled Khayat. One of the two men due to face Parramatta Court on Friday.

 

Their brother-in-law Khaled Merhi remains in detention being questioned by police under specific provisions of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, which police said "recognises that terrorism investigations are inherently complex and that there can be legitimate reasons for extended periods of detention for suspects in such matters".

Mr Merhi, who lives with his parents at Surry Hills, has not been charged. The fourth man, Khaled Merhi's brother Abdul Merhi, 50, was released without charge on Tuesday.

 

Police allege the group were plotting to use an unwitting person to bring down a plane. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts
Police allege the group were plotting to use an unwitting person to bring down a plane. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts

 

Police confirmed they have been searching six homes across Sydney following the raids on homes in Lakemba, Surry Hills, Wiley Park, Bankstown and two homes in Punchbowl.

The charges follow a day of drama during which both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller declared police had "very strong evidence" about the alleged plot by a Sydney terror cell to bomb the plane - believed to be an Etihad A380 - out of Sydney.

"We mobilised quickly and from my perspective we stopped what would have been a terrible crime," Mr Fuller said.

 

Huge queues at Sydney Airports T2 Domestic Terminal as passengers are subjected to increased security, Sydney, Australia, Monday, July 31, 2017. Airline passengers are experiencing long delays at Australian airports as security is beefed up following a number of terror raids over the weekend. AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Huge queues at Sydney Airports T2 Domestic Terminal as passengers are subjected to increased security, Sydney, Australia, Monday, July 31, 2017. Airline passengers are experiencing long delays at Australian airports as security is beefed up following a number of terror raids over the weekend. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

 

The aviation threat level set by the spy agency ASIO - which was raised last week to "probable" in the wake of intelligence reports about the alleged plot - has been restored to the previous level of "possible" but security will remain heightened at airports.

His comments came after The Daily Telegraph yesterday revealed that the plan was to use a sacrificial lamb to carry the bomb hidden in a kitchen meat mincer on board as cabin baggage, unaware he was on a suicide mission.

Mr Turnbull said at a Perth press conference that the plot had been "disrupted and contained" but enhanced security would continue at airports.

 

Police tow away two cars from a Sydney home.
Police tow away two cars from a Sydney home.

 

However, he promised that the delays, which have seen passengers queue out of the doors at Sydney's airports, should be reduced as the new security measures were "modified".

The towing of the cars came as one of the four men was released without charge. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

Abdul Merhi's solicitor Moustafa Kheir said he wants to review "what basis police had to do what they did".

"It's a very serious allegation to have against you," Mr Kheir said.

"It's just unfathomable that he would be associated­ with anything like this."

He said Mr Merhi's family was also in shock and that his life had been "turned upside down".

Mr Fuller said "reviewing police action was fine".

However, he said he had the "challenge of protecting the people of NSW. I've been given strong powers, strong legislation, I'll use those".

 

Police have urged members of the community to report any suspicious activity to the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400. You can remain anonymous.

News Corp Australia


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