The Australian Federal Police (AFP) continued their targeting of Islamic State (IS)-aligned terror cells operating throughout Australia in a raid that was executed in Melbourne this past Saturday that resulted in the arrest of two members of the attack cell. This was followed up with a third member of the cell being arrested along with a 14-yr old boy in the UK who was detained by British authorities for being tied to the plans. Although it remains unclear at this time just how the boy fits into the scheme, it appears that he was maintaining direct contact with members of the cell online. The two 18-yr olds are said to be part of a cell that was planning to attack and kill an Australian police officer, take his weapon and use it to fire on civilians attending an ANZAC Day event that was to be held on Saturday.
Anzac terror plot: Third man held in custody as details of alleged attack plot emerge
Men arrested in Melbourne over alleged ‘ISIS-inspired’ Anzac Day terrorist plot
Anzac Day terrorism plot payback for Haider shooting
The selection of ANZAC Day to carry out the attack isn’t surprising in the least as the day honors the brave men that served in the Australian and New Zealand Armies who died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations in addition to the contributions of all those who served. ANZAC Day is also of significance to IS in the sense that it was originally honor the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli agains the Ottoman Empire during World War I – a battle that the Turks (Muslims) won, although it would prove to be the last gasp of the Ottoman Empire. One of the two individuals arrested in Melbourne are identified as Sevdet Ramadan Besim, who recently appeared in court and charged. This is significant due to his friendship with the late-Numan Haider, who was killed in a SEP 14 AFP operation when he stabbed an AFP officer with a knife – implying that the planned attack was at least partially influenced by the SEP event.
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The attack itself shares many similarities to the 2013 murder of British Soldier Lee Rigby in London that we discussed in “Target America: Hunting the US Military.” In that piece, we put on our Red Cell hats and described how a lone wolf or cell of jihadists who couldn’t make the trip to Syria would go about targeting and killing a US service member. Although the article was about targeting US military personnel, the strategy also extends to Canadian, British and Australian military personnel as outlined in previous IS videos threatening each nation. The Rigby murder demonstrates how easy it is to cause havoc by targeting individual police and military personnel – which is further reinforced by IS videos stating that such attacks are just as “honorable” as conducting a high-profile attack or fighting on the front-lines in Syria. The Melbourne plot had the very real potential of being even worse since it called for the use of the slain police officer’s weapon to conduct a follow-on attack targeting the civilian population. Its cheap, effective and doesn’t require any specialized training. In other words, what we’re seeing is the “death of a thousand cuts” IS style.
Target America: Hunting the US Military
Here’s the aftermath of the Rigby murder:
Although everybody seems to be focused on the British kid, Haider and Besim’s links to the al-Furquan Dawah Center and Bookshop are of greater interest as a frequent preacher there is Muhammed Junaid Thorne – a known IS facilitator linked to recruitment and facilitating travel to Syria. As we discussed in “The Continuing Flow of Foreign Fighters From Australia,” Thorne and his close-friend Robert “Musa” Cerantonio had been quite active at their mutual associate Wissam Haddad’s al-Rislah Bookstore. As you may recall, the Bankstown-area bookstore was being as a recruiting hub and facilitating the travel of jihadists to Syria through Haddad’s network of donors and Syria-based contacts within the IS ranks. Before al-Rislah was shutdown, it had made several postings on social media that demonstrated its pro-IS alignment. Its also worth noting that Cerantonio, Haddad and Thorne are all actively working with the pro-IS organization Millatu-Ibrahim AU, which is the Australian branch of a jihadist entity that originally operated in Germany prior to being banned from the country – where it now operates “underground.” Millatu-Ibrahim also has a branch in Denmark that has been allowed to thrive in the European nation.
The Continuing Flow of Foreign Fighters From Australia
al-Furqan Dawah Center and Bookstore
Source: Jason South
Thorne’s efforts in reaching out to his European counterparts may have facilitated a greater flow of ideas between the two continents that led to the disrupted plot being modeled on the Rigby murder. Another chilling aspects of all this is that the decision to plan for launching the attack on ANZAC Day was likely influenced by Thorne and led to the young jihadists getting in touch with structural IS member Neil Prakash aka “Abu Khalid al-Cambodi.” He’s a 23-yr old Australian national of Fijian/Cambodian heritage (hence the name “Cambodi”) that took over the duties of the late-Muhmammed Ali Baryalei, who was one of the top recruiters for IS leading up to his death. Cambodi is very active on social media and had threatened the Australian government about “the brothers” who couldn’t travel to Syria, implying that there would be attacks inside Australia itself. Its said that Cambodi played a significant role in identifying promising recruits to serve in the “Anwar al-Awlaki Battalion” that we discussed in “The Increasing Role of Aussie Jihadists in ISIS Efforts to Expand into Southeast Asia and Strike the West.” The Anwar al-Awlaki Battalion consists of foreign fighters from Australia, the US, UK, Canada and was established to get a cohesive unit of westerners for the purpose of eventual redeployment back to their countries of origin – where they would set up their own networks for launching attacks on the home front. This is only part of what Cambodi’s strategy, the other being inspiring homegrown cells, even linking them up with jihadists who returned from Syria and giving them advice on which targets to consider developing for future attacks. In fact, he just recently put out a video in response to the disruption of the ANZAC Day plot calling for additional attacks on Australian soil and praised Haider.
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This snake of an Aussie jihadist got promoted to be new head recruiter for Islamic State
ISIS recruiter makes video urging ISIS Australian cells to carry out attacks
The Increasing Role of Aussie Jihadists in ISIS Efforts to Expand into Southeast Asia and Strike the West
Source: The ISIS Study Group
Breakdown of the links between the two detainees and IS facilitators
The timing of the recent attack in Kabul (which will be covered in an upcoming article) and the ANZAC Day plot are unlikely to be a coincidence. It also means that other attacks may be planned elsewhere. That said, we expect the remaining personnel operating in Melbourne to lay-low this weekend to avoid capture while the cells operating in locations such as Brisbane and Sydney likely maintaining a low-profile. After a week or two those cells will probably work to change up their current OPSEC TTPs in order to mitigate further targeting in addition to doing an assessment on their current plans to determine if they’ve been compromised. We assess that JUN through AUG will likely see renewed efforts by the Australia-based terror cells to regain the initiative. Fortunately, our Australian allies are already tracking and will continue to crackdown on IS and their supporters. The US government could learn a thing or two on how to take the fight to the terrorists…