Bunnings purchase that foiled terror plot
A suspicious purchase and quick-thinking Bunnings employees helped to stop what could have been Australia's most devastating terror attack.
Ahmed Mohamed, a young man who had grown up in Melbourne, entered a Broadmeadows Bunnings store in December 2016 and made a single purchase that raised alarm bells with the staff.
He bought 700 nail-gun cartridges filled with gunpowder, which were kept behind a locked counter in the hardware store, The Age reported.
This was the only thing Mohamed bought but it made staff suspicious enough to follow him back to his car and take down his licence plate details.
The details were handed over to police but employees had no idea at the time just how many lives this piece of information may have helped save.
The federal police were already aware of Mohamed, now 25, and were tracking is behaviour closely, along with his friends Hamza Abbas, 23, and Abdullah Chaarani, 27.
The trio were found guilty by the Supreme Court on November 2 of acts in preparation for an attack targeting Federation Square, St Paul's Cathedral and Flinders St station in December 2016.
The verdict, made public yesterday after legal delays, followed seven days of deliberations in the jury room and eight weeks of evidence including from Hamza's older brother Ibrahim Abbas, 24, who confessed his involvement to police and pleaded guilty earlier this year.
Mohamed and Chaarani laughed and chatted to each other between the individual verdicts. Both nodded slowly and looked indifferent as the guilty decision was given.
As they were removed from the dock, Mohamed gave his family a big, cheesy grin, while Hamza gave his a thumbs-up.
Police left court carrying two machetes Chaarani and Ibrahim bought in preparation for the attack.
Ibrahim said they were for "chopping to kill" and to slice the necks of disbelievers of their radical Sunni Islam.
The group also had the makings for pipe bombs - sparkler dust, hundreds of match heads and chemicals including hydrogen peroxide - that were intended, as Ibrahim put it, to "wage violent jihad".
They got the recipe from the infamous al-Qaeda magazine article "How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mum".
Ibrahim revealed during the trial that he believed it was "fine for me to kill Australians" because Muslims have been killed in wars involving Australia.
"It's not hard to kill a person with a machete. It just takes one slice to the neck," he said in his police interview.
The plot was foiled on December 22, 2016, by police who had been listening to their preparations and watching as they carried out reconnaissance at Federation Square.
During his arrest, Chaarani asked police to "make me a martyr", officers revealed.
In Hamza's defence, lawyer Felicity Gerry, QC, argued he was a "fishbrain" and the "idiot brother" who could not be trusted to know details of the plot.
Hamza joined in December 2016, but plans between Ibrahim, Mohamed and Chaarani had been on foot since at least October.
Mohamed and Chaarani had tried in 2015 to go overseas and fight with Islamic State.
Chaarani said he wanted to "follow the same path" as Hamza and Ibrahim's cousin Nabil Abbas who, it was revealed during the trial, had died fighting with the terrorist organisation.
Hamza, Mohamed and Chaarani will face a plea hearing before being sentenced.