The people of Sydney, Australia, dodged a bullet–or, more accurately, a machete and a hunting knife–on Tuesday, as the authorities moved against a pair of alleged Islamist terrorists on the very day they reportedly planned to carry out an assault on police officers, according to the UK Daily Mail.
Among the evidence gathered from their squalid “granny flat” (a detached apartment on the grounds of a larger home) were the weapons they planned to use, a video of themselves detailing their plans, and an ISIS flag. The police allege that the men were planning to act in bloody “revenge for events overseas” and were “well advanced in their preparations.”
The duo, 25-year-old Mhammad Kiad and 24-year-old Omar al-Kutobi, were immigrants from Kuwait and Iraq, respectively. Kutobi reportedly had obtained Australian citizenship and lived in the flat for about three years, while Kiad was a more recent arrival, and was not an Australian citizen. It appears that Kiad, a former nurse, was frustrated by his inability to find medical work in Australia; the Daily Mail reports the pair was chronically short of money, late on rent, and had taken jobs as “furniture removalists” about a month ago.
The young men evidently spent much of their free time watching television and stewing over the news and very little on housekeeping, as the Daily Mail dotes at length over how messy their apartment was. They were not on the police radar as possible terrorists; they were given away by tips from their neighbors, who spoke of them becoming more sullen and radicalized after the anti-terror raids in Sydney last September. They were also accused of being very excited by the Sydney cafe siege perpetrated by “self-styled imam” Man Haron Monis in December (as he was almost universally described by the media).
One neighbor described how the formerly friendly Kutobi “began wearing a scarf, just like ISIS and Mohammed” and “grew a long beard” after the Australian anti-terror crackdown began. Another suspected that one of the men stole her picture of Jesus and dumped it in a trash bin.
The authorities seem to think Kiad and Kutobi were responding to ISIS’s call for Muslims across the Western world to conduct surprise attacks against their neighbors, although they have not yet alleged any direct command to the pair from the Islamic State or links to the other Islamist cells broken up by Australian police. One of the men is seen kneeling in front of the ISIS flag and clutching the knives while making a statement in Arabic in the video they prepared.
“It was beyond disturbing, what was planned,” said New South Wales state Premier Mike Baird, after the arrests were made, as quoted by AFP. “Certainly, something catastrophic was avoided yesterday, and for that we should be very thankful.”
“This is a serious problem, and I fear it will get worse before it gets better, as we have seen again and again in recent times the death cult is reaching out all around the world, including here in Australia,” said Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
“The concerning thing about this clearly is that this represents the nature of the environment that we currently face,” said New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn. “This is indicative of the threat that we now have to live with, and which we are now having to deal with.”
Judging by these comments, it does not sound like Australian authorities are willing to share the Obama administration’s studied ignorance of the true nature of the terrorist threat or join the American government in pretending that it cannot identify the most receptive audience for the Islamic State’s call to action. How would U.S. authorities respond to the sort of complaints Kiad and Kutobi’s neighbors referred to the police–loud arguments in Arabic, increasingly impolite behavior following a high-profile crackdown on Islamist terror cells, growing a beard like Mohammed, accusations of vandalism against a picture of Jesus, and so forth?