Open gate to terrorists
'A TERRORIST attack on Sydney’s Holsworthy Barracks was ‘‘likely imminent’’ before the alleged plot was crushed in a series of pre-dawn raids yesterday, but the main entrance to the army base remains guarded by unarmed private security men.
Federal, NSW and Victorian police say phone intercepts since March have uncovered a martyrs’ mission, involving Somali and Lebanese Australians, to storm the army base with automatic weapons and kill as many soldiers as possible until the terrorists were shot dead or arrested.
In one of the intercepts, presented in Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday, a text message exchanged about the base said: ‘‘I stalked around. It is easy to enter.’’
This remained the case yesterday. About 5.30pm three unarmed ISS security guards manned the entrance. At other times there were two, while a back entrance was reportedly unguarded. Men in civilian clothes, apparently soldiers, walked through an opened gate five metres to the right of the front gate, without security checks. The base is surrounded by a wire fence about two metres high.
Just 200 metres beyond the gate are the barracks for the counter-terrorism force, the 2 Commando Regiment. Across the road is the 3RAR Parachute Battalion. Both have been critical in Australia’s war effort in Afghanistan, one of the alleged motivations for the terrorist plot.
The NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, said the terrorist attack was ‘‘likely imminent’’. ‘‘Should they have made the entry, they were likely to have killed many, many officers.’’
The Australian Defence Force confirmed Mr Scipione’s statement that it upgraded security based on intelligence of a potential attack. The Defence Force told the Herald it was confident security was strong enough and, despite Mr Scipione’s remarks, a spokesman said the plot was caught early in its planning.
It is two years since a Somali community leader in Sydney, Herse Hilole, warned that young Somali refugees in Melbourne were returning to Somalia to fight and could be recruited for attacks in Australia.
At 4.30am yesterday about 400 police mounted the second biggest counter-terrorism operation in the nation’s history when they raided 19 homes in Melbourne and arrested four men, all Australian citizens.
One of them, Nayef El Sayed, 25, of Glenroy, had been charged by last night. Accused of preparing for a terrorist attack at an army base, he refused to stand for the magistrate, Peter Reardon – because under his religious beliefs he would not stand for anyone but God, his lawyer, Anthony Brand, told the court.
A Lakemba man, 35, was questioned in Sydney but not arrested.
The others arrested in Melbourne are a Carlton man, 26, a Preston man, 25, and another from Meadow Heights, 22. They were charged this morning with same offence as Sayed and will appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court today.
One of them, Saney Aweys, faced court separately yesterday, flanked by two federal agents. Denying any link to the other men, he told the court he was a boilermaker. "I have been already up for 30 hours and working for 20 hours when they picked me up,’’ Mr Aweys said. ‘‘I want it to stop now. I want to have a rest.’’
Mr Reardon, saying terrorism struck ‘‘at the heart of our democratic society’’, granted a federal police application for Mr Aweys to be interviewed for an extra eight hours from 6pm, after he had had sleep.
Another man, 33, who was already in jail over other matters, is expected to face Melbourne Magistrates Court this afternoon.
Security camera footage allegedly shows one conspirator outside Holsworthy on March 28.
A senior source told the Herald that authorities were aware the alleged terrorists had not obtained weapons.
Mr Scipione said: ‘‘My advice is that it could have happened at any time. Now, within days, within weeks, within months is imminent to me.’’ But the important point was that it did not succeed. ‘‘Whether it was minutes or whether it was months it doesn’t matter. It was finished.’’
The Defence Force spokesman said the plot was ‘‘foiled at the cell level, at the genesis level’’. He quibbled with the suggestion the ISS employees were ‘‘security guards’’. ‘‘They are access control to a base. Inside a base there is a range of physical and personnel security measures to stop people getting through.’’
Open gate to terrorists
Bloody hell. 3 UNARMED security guards? No checks?
Forgive me if I'm not too reassured by the "range of physical and personnel security measures to stop people getting through"...not if random people can scope out the base anytime without challenge...
No wonder my country is known on occasion as "Austfailia" (and not only for the crap gunlaws, it seems)