This table presents proven and alleged terrorist plots in Australia from September 2014 onwards.
An earlier version was published in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Counterterrorism Yearbook 2019. However, this version functions as a living document so that I can regularly update it to include new events, and it contains all the sources. Thomas Hegghammer, among many others, has called for terrorism scholars to share their (open) sources better and I strongly agree. Part of my motivation for making this post is to share all the sources behind the ASPI version of the table and these two AVERT posts:
- How did the Islamic State’s rise reshape jihadist plots inside Australia? Part 2, 15 March 2019.
- How did the Islamic State’s rise reshape jihadist plots inside Australia? Part 1, 23 January 2019.
The table is divided into three sections: violent incidents (where a violent attack was carried out, though there are debates over whether all of these should be characterised as terrorism), terrorist plots proven in court, and alleged terrorist plots currently before the courts. The listings are based on Australia’s official legal definition of terrorism and the outcomes of court cases, but underneath the table I note some of the ambiguities this causes.
Also, rather than regularly detailing each update I make, like I was doing for this post, this time I just note the date on which I last updated it. If you find this table helpful for your research, please cite this post.
|Proven and alleged terrorist plots in Australia since September 2014 (last updated 3 July 2019)|
|Month of incident||Incident|
|September 2014||Melbourne-based teenager Numan Haider was inspired by Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani’s global call to arms and stabbed two Victorian Joint Counter-Terrorism Team (JCTT) officers before being fatally shot.
Finding – Inquest into the Death of Ahmad Numan Haider, 31 July 2017.
|December 2014||Harun Man Monis used a shotgun to take hostages in the Lindt Café in Sydney shortly after pledging allegiance online to Islamic State. The 12-hour siege ended with the deaths of two hostages and Monis.
Martin Place Siege: Joint Commonwealth – New South Wales Review, 22 February 2015;
Inquest into the deaths arising from the Lindt Café siege, May 2017.
|October 2015||Fifteen-year old Farhad Jabar, who belonged to a group of Sydney-based Islamic State supporters, used a handgun to murder NSW police employee Curtis Cheng at Parramatta Police Station before being fatally shot. One accomplice, Raban Alou, pleaded guilty to a terrorism offence for conspiring in the murder. In March 2018, he was sentenced to 44 years’ imprisonment. Another accomplice, Talal Alameddine, pleaded guilty to supplying the handgun and was sentenced in May 2018 to 7 years’ and 2 months’ imprisonment. Milad Atai, who also pleaded guilty to a role in the murder, was sentenced in November 2018 to 38 years’ imprisonment. Mustafa Durani has also been found guilty of being involved, but has not yet been sentenced.
Two men arrested in relation to Curtis Cheng murder, 15 October 2015;
Two charged in Operation Peqin, 22 March 2016;
Man charged with firearm offence and breach of bail, 21 December 2016;
Four men charged with plotting Curtis Cheng terror attack, 27 April 2017;
Plan of Attack: the making of a teenage terrorist, 23 November 2015;
R v Alou (No. 4)  NSWSC 221 (1 March 2018);
R v Atai (No. 2)  NSWSC 1797 (23 November 2018);
R v Alameddine (No. 3)  NSWSC 681 (18 May 2018).
|September 2016||Ihsas Khan, believed to be inspired by Islamic State, stabbed a member of the public in the Sydney suburb of Minto. He acknowledged that he committed the stabbing but pleaded not guilty to terrorism offences on mental health grounds. On 2 May 2019 he was found guilty, and on 5 June 2019 he was sentenced to 36 years’ imprisonment.
Man charged with committing a terrorist act and attempted murder – Joint Counter Terrorism Team, 11 September 2016;
Ihsas Khan found guilty of stabbing his neighbour in Sydney terror attack, 2 May 2019;
R v Khan (No 11)  NSWSC 594 (5 June 2019).
|December 2016||In a somewhat anomalous incident, Islamic State supporters Abdullah Chaarani, Ahmed Mohamed and Hatim Moukhaiber, carried out an arson attack against a Shia mosque (the Imam Ali Islamic Centre) in Melbourne on 11 December 2016. They were charged with terrorism offences (possibly under the Victorian JCTT’s Operation Kastelhom) and were found guilty in May 2019. Abdullah Chaarani and Ahmed Mohamed were also found guilty of a failed attempt to firebomb the Shia mosque sixteen days before their successful attempt, and they had earlier been found guilty of involvement in the December 2016 Christmas Day bombing plot (mentioned below). However, this whole indicident does not appear to be included in the official figure of “seven attacks” in Australia since September 2014, possibly because politically-motivated arson attacks do not normally result in terrorism charges.
Three men to be charged with committing a terrorist act, 20 August 2017;
‘IS-inspired’ trio face terror charges over arson at Melbourne Shiite centre, 20 August 2017;
Fawkner mosque arsonists were also behind Melbourne Christmas terror plot, 9 May 2019.
|June 2017||Yaqcub Khayre used a shotgun to murder a hotel clerk in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton, before taking a hostage and seeking media and police attention. After the police arrived, he fired at them and was shot dead. He had claimed that the action was in the name of both al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Understanding Australia’s Brighton siege terror attack, 14 July 2017.
|February 2018||Inspired by Islamic State, Bangladeshi student Momena Shoma stabbed a man in Melbourne’s Mill Park. She has pleaded guilty to a terrorism offence, and on 5 June 2019 she was sentenced to 42 years’ imprisonment.
Woman charged following terrorism-related stabbing in Mill Park, 10 February 2018;
Accused IS-inspired stabber Momena Shoma appears in court, 3 May 2018;
Bangladeshi student’s lone wolf terror attack in Melbourne left daughter with flashbacks, victim says, 30 January 2019;
The Queen v Shoma  VSC 367 (5 June 2019).
|November 2018||Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, believed to be inspired by Islamic State, drove a vehicle laden with gas canisters into Melbourne’s Bourke Street, set it on fire, and stabbed multiple members of the public. He murdered one person and injured two others before being fatally shot by police.
Revealed: Bourke Street attacker’s plan and why it failed, 10 November 2018;
Bourke Street attacker Hassan Khalif Shire Ali was radicalised and inspired by IS, police say, 12 November 2018.
|Month of key arrests||Incident|
|September 2014||A Brisbane-based man, Agim Kruezi, plotted to carry out an attack using firearms and Molotov cocktails while in contact with Islamic State supporters in Sydney. Kruezi was arrested under the Queensland JCTT’s Operation Bolton, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 17 years’ and 4 months’ imprisonment.
Further charges laid in counter-terrorism operation, 17 October 2014;
The Queen v Agim Kruezi  QSC 806/955 (31 July 2018).
|September 2014||Omarjan Azari was part of plot in Sydney to murder random members of the public. Under instructions from Syria-based Australian Islamic State member Mohamed Ali Baryalei, the plan was for the victims to be killed with a blade and for videos of the murders to be sent to Islamic State’s media agency. Azari was arrested under the NSW JCTT’s Operation Appleby, found guilty by a jury, and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment.
UPDATE: Major Sydney counter terrorism investigation; two charged, 18 September 2014;
The order to kill that triggered Operation Appleby, 19 September 2014;
Sydney man Omarjan Azari spoke of plan to kill seven random Australians a month, terrorism trial told, 24 April 2017;
R v Azari (No 12)  NSWSC 314 (29 March 2019).
|December 2014 to May 2016||Six Islamic State supporters in Sydney were involved in a plot to attack government buildings, and were arrested over many months in a series of raids which were again part of the NSW JCTT’s Operation Appleby. All six pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison terms that ranged from 8 years to 22 years.
Man in court after Operation Appleby arrest, 10 January 2015;
Two Men charged in Operation Appleby investigation, 10 December 2015;
Update on additional charges in Operation Appleby investigation, 10 December 2015; Appleby terror cell a tough nut to crack, says top cop, 25 March 2016;
Operation Appleby investigators arrest Bankstown man, 26 May 2016;
R v Ghazzawy  NSWSC 474 (8 May 2017);
R v Sulayman Khalid; R v Jibryl Almaouie; R v IM; R v Mohamed Rashad Al Maouie; R v Farhad Said  NSWSC 1365.
|February 2015||Two Sydney-based men, Omar al-Kutobi and Mohammad Kiad, plotted an attack while in communication with an Islamic State member in Syria (who turned out to be passing information about the plot to an informant). The plot involved firebombing a Shia institution and then attacking one or more people with a blade. Al-Kutobi and Kiad were arrested under the NSW JCTT’s Operation Castrum, pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.
Two arrested at Fairfield on terrorism offences, 11 February 2015;
The monsters in the granny flat, 9 September 2017;
R v Al-Kutobi; R v Kiad  NSWSC 1760 (9 December 2016).
|April 2015||Sevdet Besim plotted to kill police officers in Melbourne on Anzac Day (25 April). He was in communication with two Syria-based Australian Islamic State members and a 14-year-old UK child pretending to be a significant Islamic State member. Besim was arrested in the Victorian JCTT’s Operation Rising, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, later changed on appeal to 14 years.
Media Release: Counter terrorism operation update, 21 April 2016;
Anzac Day terror plot: Blackburn boy sentenced to life, 2 October 2015;
The boy who wanted to spread blood and terror in the Anzac Day parade, 2 October 2015;
The Queen v Besim  VSC 537 (5 September 2016);
DPP (Cth) v Besim  VSCA 158 (23 June 2017).
|May 2015||An unnamed 17-year-old male (“MHK”) plotted an attack in Melbourne involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) under instructions from Syria-based British Islamic State member Junaid Hussain. Targets are unclear, but there was discussion of a police station or train station. He was arrested under the Victorian JCTT’s Operation Amberd, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment, later changed on appeal to 11 years.
Joint Operation Amberd, 9 May 2015;
Melbourne teen partially made explosive device similar to Boston bombings in terror plot, court told, 5 September 2016;
Teenager pleads guilty to planning Mother’s Day terrorist attack in Melbourne, 14 December 2015;
The Queen v M H K  VSC 742 (7 December 2016);
DPP (Cth) v M H K (a Pseudonym)  VSCA 157 (23 June 2017).
|February 2016||An Islamic State supporting couple, Alo-Bridget Namoa and Sameh Bayda, planned a knife attack in Sydney. The two were arrested under the NSW JCTT’s Operation Chillon, and one was convicted and sentenced for refusing to answer questions. Both then faced trial on terrorism charges and were found guilty by a jury. Sameh Bayda was sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment while Alo-Bridget Namoa was sentenced to 3 years’ and 9 months’ imprisonment.
Man charged after Joint Counter Terrorism Team operation, 26 January 2016;
NSW JCTT charges Auburn woman, 6 February 2016;
JCTT charges 18-year-old woman as part of terrorism investigation, 23 February 2016;
‘Jihadi Bonnie and Clyde’ teens charged with planning Sydney terrorist attack, 8 February 2017;
R v Bayda; R v Namoa (No 8)  NSWSC 24 (31 January 2019).
|April 2016||An unnamed Sydney-based teenager (“AH”), inspired by Islamic State, plotted to carry out a shooting attack against people attending a memorial service for Anzac Day. He was arrested under the NSW JCTT’s Operation Vianden, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment.
Teenager charged with a terrorism offence, 25 April 2016;
Western Sydney teenager pleads guilty to planning Anzac Day terror attack, 24 March 2017;
R v AH  NSWSC 973 (22 June 2018).
|May 2016||A Sydney-based man inspired by Islamic State, Tamim Khaja, plotted to attack targets such as Parramatta Court or an Army or Navy base. He was charged under the NSW JCTT’s Operation Sanandres, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 19 years’ imprisonment.
Teenager arrested for terrorism offences, 17 May 2016;
Tamim Khaja, 18, charged with planning terrorist attack over seven-day period, 19 May 2016;
Tamim Khaja pleads guilty to planning Sydney ‘mass murder’ terror attack, 31 October 2017;
R v Khaja (No 5)  NSWSC 238 (2 March 2018).
|September 2016||NSW prisoner Bourhan Hraichie pleaded guilty to plotting a terrorist attack targeting police in Bankstown, but the details are extremely unclear. In a separate incident (which did not result in terrorism charges) he attacked his cellmate, carving “e4e” (eye for an eye) into his forehead, and sent the Corrective Services Commissioner a letter declaring that he was inspired by Islamic State. He was charged under the NSW JCTT’s Operation Broughton and pleaded guilty to four offences.
Man charged by NSW JCTT, 14 September 2016;
Man in Goulburn prison allegedly caught planning terrorist act from behind bars, 14 September 2016;
R v Hraichie (No. 1)  NSWSC 319 (25 March 2019);
Inmate boasted of turning cellmate’s forehead into ‘Islamic State sketch pad’, court hears, 26 March 2019.
|October 2016||Two unnamed Sydney-based teenagers, inspired by Islamic State, were accused of plotting to carry out a beheading attack in Sydney. They were charged under the NSW JCTT’s Operation Restormal in September 2016. One was found guilty at trial and sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment, while the other is facing a retrial.
Sources: Two arrested in Sydney, 12 October 2016;
Sydney teens charged with terrorism offences – Joint Counter Terrorism Team, 13 October 2016;
Bankstown terror arrest: Teens were about to make ‘final prayers’, police believe, 13 October 2016;
R v HG  NSWSC 1849 (11 December 2018).
|December 2016||Four men, Ibrahim Abbas, Hamza Abbas, Abdullah Chaarani and Ahmed Mohamed, plotted to detonate IEDs at popular locations in Melbourne’s central business district. They were charged under the Victorian JCCT’s Operation Kastelhom. Ibrahim Abbas pleaded guilty in February 2018 and was sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment. The other three were found guilty by a jury on 2 November 2018 but have not yet been sentenced.
Seven people arrested in counter terrorism operation in Melbourne, 23 December 2016;
Three Charged Following Joint Counter Terrorism Operation, 23 December 2016;
Melbourne terrorist plot: What do we know about the alleged foiled Christmas attack?, 23 December 2016;
Second Abbas brother in court over Christmas terror raids, 24 December 2016;
Melbourne trio to stand trial over allegedly planning Christmas Day terrorist attack, 2 August 2017;
The Queen v Abbas  VSC 553 (20 September 2018);
Trio guilty of Melbourne Christmas terror plot, 14 November 2018.
|August 2017||Two Sydney men were accused of plotting to bomb a plane and then to build a chemical dispersal advice under instructions from Islamic State. They were charged with terrorism offences under the NSW JCTT’s Operation Silves and one of them was found guilty by a jury on 1 May 2019. The jury could not reach a verdict on the other accused man, and he is facing a retrial.
Four arrested in major counter terrorism operation, 29 July 2017;
UPDATE: Sydney counter-terrorism operation, 30 July 2017;
UPDATE: Sydney counter-terrorism operation – 50-year-old man released, 2 August 2017;
Two Sydney men charged over planned terrorist acts, 3 August 2017;
UPDATE: Sydney counter-terrorism operation – final man released, 6 August 2017;
AFP and NSWP discuss the Two sydney men charged over alleged terrorist acts (video of press conference), 3 August 2017;
New developments in the Islamic State’s external operations: the 2017 Sydney plane plot, 18 October 2017;
Suspected Sydney plane bomb plot ringleader and Australian IS terrorist captured in Iraq, 18 April 2018;
Brothers plead not guilty to Sydney airport meat grinder bomb plot, 4 May 2018;
|November 2017||Ali Khalif Shire Ali (brother of the Bourke Street terrorist mentioned above) plotted a shooting attack at Federation Square in Melbourne on New Year’s Eve. He was arrested under the Victorian JCTT’s Operation San Jose and pleaded guilty on 15 May 2019.
Man arrested in counter terrorism operation in Melbourne, 28 November 2017;
UPDATE: Man arrested in Melbourne counter terrorism operation charged, 28 November 2017;
Arrested Australian terror suspect had British contacts, 28 November 2017;
Further warrants following counter terrorism arrest in Melbourne, 29 November 2017;
‘I thought I was in 007’: Terror plot accused said he was approached by ASIO, 29 November 2017;
Man admits to Federation Square terror plot, 15 May 2019.
|Month of key arrests||Incident|
|August 2016||A far-right extremist in Melbourne is alleged to have plotted a bomb attack against left-wing activists. He was charged under the Victorian JCTT’s Operation Fortaleza and is facing trial.
Victorian man arrested in JCTT operation, 8 August 2016;
How Reclaim Australia hid a ‘terrorist, 13-19 August 2016;
‘Patriot’ accused of bomb plans, rewriting terror guide, assures magistrate of sanity, 31 October 2016;
Victorian extremist Phillip Galea planned to bomb leftwing premises, police say, 31 October 2016;
|November 2018||Three men in Melbourne are alleged to have plotted a mass shooting attack against a public gathering. The suspects were arrested under the Victorian JCTT’s Operation Donabate and are facing trial.
Three men charged following counter terrorism operation, 20 November 2018;
Melbourne terror attack plot suspects arrested in police raids over mass shooting fears, 21 November 2018.
|July 2019||Alleged plot by an Islamic State supporter, reportedly in contact with individuals overseas, to bomb locations in Sydney. Potential targets included churches and police stations. Three people were arrested in a NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team operation, one of whom was charged with preparing an attack and being an Islamic State member (another was also charged with being an Islamic State member, while a third was charged with non-terrorism offences).
Three men charged in NSW JCTT operation, 3 July 2019;
‘Wannabe ISIS warrior at heart of church, consulate bomb plot’, 3 July 2019;
NSW Police charge two men after Sydney terror raids, alleged mastermind still being interviewed, 3 July 2019;
Sydney counter-terror raids: third man charged over alleged Islamic State-inspired terror plot, 3 July 2019.
Terrorism is a famously contested term. The table is based based on Australia’s legal definition of terrorism, and on prosecutorial outcomes since September 2014. The legal definition requires, among other things, that the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
(b) the action is done or the threat is made with the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause;
And also prove that:
(c) the action is done or the threat is made with the intention of:
(i) coercing, or influencing by intimidation, the government of the Commonwealth or a State, Territory or foreign country, or of part of a State, Territory or foreign country; or
(ii) intimidating the public or a section of the public.
As such, the table leaves out many other incidents relevant for understanding violent extremism and counter-terrorism in Australia.
For example, it leaves out:
Cases of terrorist-like tactics carried out for ambiguous purposes.
This includes two high-profile vehicle attacks against pedestrians in Melbourne. James Gargasoulas drove into pedestrians in Bourke Street, killing six people and injuring several more, in January 2017. Saeed Noori killed one person, and injured many others, by driving into pedestrians at Flinders Street in December 2017. These attacks echoed methods used by Islamic State supporters in France, Germany and Sweden, but did not result in terrorism charges. Similarly, in December 2016 Jaden Duong tried to kill himself by driving gas-canister-filled van into the Canberra offices of the Australian Christian Lobby. The tactic resembled terrorism, but the motivation was regarded as too unclear for terrorism charges. That the perpetrators, like anybody, had political and religious views (Duong was a gay rights activist, Noori believed ASIO was persecuting Muslims, Gargasoulas claimed to be the “second coming of Christ“) does not mean that their actions were necessarily attempts to intimidate a wider audience to further those beliefs. Therefore, they did not neatly fit under Australia’s legal definition of terrorism.
Cases of extremist individuals carrying out acts of family violence.
For example, an Islamic State supporter in Melbourne (associated with a terrorist cell disrupted in Melbourne in 2005) murdered his wife in June 2016 in front of their children. Also in 2016, Aryan Nations members in Perth murdered one of their spouses to steal his house and life insurance.
Lower-level acts of extremist violence, such as arson and assaults.
There have been several such acts carried out with apparent extremist motivation but which did not result in terrorism charges. These include cases of far-right violent extremism in recent years, such as when neo-Nazi Ricky White burned down a Sydney church in 2016 (he was jailed on an arson charge but later subjected to an Extended Supervision Order under the NSW Terrorism (High Risk Offenders) Act 2017). There have similarly been some cases of intra-Muslim violence with ideological and sectarian undertones which usually do not result in terrorism charges, with the unusual exception one arson attack against a Shia mosque in Melbourne which was treated as terrorism (mentioned in the table above).
Cases of Australians supporting or perpetrating terrorist acts abroad.
Plenty of people in Australia have been charged for supporting armed groups in the Middle East. Most of these charges involve support for Islamic State, but some involve support for Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Kurdistan Workers Party. Several Australians travelled to join Islamic State and other groups, and sometimes carried out high-profile war crimes. Australians have also joined armed groups in Ukraine, including extreme-right groups. The most consequential case of an Australian carrying out a terrorist attack overseas was the Christchurch massacre, when an Australian white supremacist murdered 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand on 15 March 2019.
Australians harmed or killed in terrorist acts abroad.
Most deaths of Australians in terrorist acts occur overseas. Two Australians were recently killed in the Sri Lankan church bombings which killed over 250 people. In 2017 four Australians were killed in terrorists attacks in Baghdad, Barcelona and London. Going back further, Australians were killed in terrorist acts in Paris in 2015, Mumbai in 2008, and many other attacks. The worst example is the 2002 Bali bombings, in which 88 Australians were among the 202 people murdered. Going back further still, in 1990 two Australian tourists in the Netherlands were killed by members of the Irish Republican Army who mistook them for off-duty British soldiers. And in 1985 two Australians were killed in a bombing at Frankfurt Airport and one Australians was killed in the hijacking of EgyptAir Flight 648 (these two terror attacks were carried out by the largely-forgotten Abu Nidal Organisation).
So these five types of incidents listed above are left out of the table, as are any events before 2014. The table covers proven and alleged terrorist plots inside Australia since September 2014, based on Australia’s legal definition of terrorism and how it has been applied so far, which is just one part of a much bigger picture.