Australian court finds second man guilty of plotting to blow up Etihad flight

Above, an Etihad Airways aircraft crosses at low altitude above buildings in the Lebanese capital Beirut’s coastal neighborhood of Hamra on July 10, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Australian court finds second man guilty of plotting to blow up Etihad flight

  • Bomb hidden in a meat grinder, a court spokeswoman said on Friday

SYDNEY: An Australian court has found a man guilty of planning to blow up an Etihad Airways flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi nearly two years ago with a bomb hidden in a meat grinder, a spokeswoman for the New South Wales Supreme Court said on Friday.
Police had accused the man, Mahmoud Khayat, and his brother Khaled Khayat of planning two terrorist attacks: the bomb and a chemical gas attack on the flight to Abu Dhabi in July 2017.
Khaled was found guilty by the New South Wales Supreme Court in May, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict against Mahmoud. His retrial ended with a guilty verdict on Thursday afternoon for planning “the terrorist act,” the spokeswoman said.
Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat were arrested after police raids in Sydney. Police had said that high-grade explosives used to make the bomb were flown from Turkey as part of a plot “inspired and directed” by the Islamic State.
The court will hear sentencing submissions later, the Australian Associated Press reported.
The verdict in Mahmoud’s case came only a few hours before Lebanon’s military court acquitted another brother, Amer Khayat, of the plotting to blow up the Etihad flight.
The military court sentenced the three other Khayat brothers — Khaled, Mahmoud and Tareq — in absentia to hard labor for life, Lebanese state news agency NNA said late on Wednesday.
Lebanon’s police said in 2017 that Tareq was a Daesh commander in Syria.
Khaled, Mahmoud and Amer were all living in Australia but occasionally visited Lebanon. Amer landed in Beirut in July 2017 on the day of the plot to smuggle the bomb onto the plane, Lebanon’s interior minister said at the time.


Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

Updated 13 October 2019

Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

  • EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down hopes Sunday of a breakthrough in his last-ditch bid to strike an amicable divorce deal with the European Union.
Negotiators went behind closed doors for intensive talks in Brussels after Johnson outlined a new set of proposals to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday.
They have very little time left to succeed.
EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline just two weeks away.
The 27 would ideally like to have a full proposal to vote on by then.
But the sides are trying to achieve in a few days what they had failed to in the more than three years since Britons first voted to leave the European Union after nearly 50 years.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier called the weekend negotiations “constructive” enough to keep going for another day.
“A lot of work remains to be done,” Barnier stressed in a statement to EU ambassadors.
“Discussions at technical level will continue (Monday).”
Downing Street said Johnson also told his cabinet to brace for a cliff-hanger finish.
He reiterated “that a pathway to a deal could be seen but that there is still a significant amount of work to get there and we must remain prepared to leave on October 31,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
Johnson rose to power in July on a promise not to extend Brexit for a third time this year — even for a few weeks.
Breaking that pledge could come back to haunt him in an early general election that most predict for the coming months.
Johnson is under parliamentary orders to seek a extension until January 31 of next year if no deal emerges by Saturday.
He has promised to both follow the law and get Britain out by October 31 — a contradiction that might end up being settled in court.
Outgoing EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker said British politics were getting more difficult to decipher than the riddle of an “Egyptian sphinx.”
“If the British ask for more time, which they probably will not, it would in my view be a historical nonsense to refuse them,” Juncker told Austria’s Kurier newspaper.
Ireland’s Varadkar hinted on Thursday that he could support the talks running on up to the October 31 deadline if a deal seemed within reach.
The few details that have leaked out suggest a compromise around the contentious Irish border issue Britain’s Northern Ireland partially aligned with EU customs rules.
Whether such a fudge suits both Brussels and the more ardent Brexit backers in parliament who must still approve a deal should become clearer by the end of the week.
Britain will only avoid a chaotic breakup with its closest trading partners if the agreement is also passed by the UK parliament — something it has failed to do three times.
Johnson heads a minority government and must rely on the full backing of not only his own fractured Conservatives but also Northern Ireland’s small Democratic Unionist Party.
DUP’s parliamentary leader Nigel Dodds warned Johnson that “Northern Ireland must remain entirely in the customs union of the United Kingdom” and not the EU.
“And Boris Johnson knows it very well,” Dodds told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper.
The comments do not necessarily rule out DUP support.
UK media are presenting Johnson’s mooted compromise as a “double customs” plan that could be interpreted to mean that Northern Ireland is leaving EU rules.
Yet details are still under discussion and the prime minister’s allies are urging lawmakers to give the British leader a chance.
Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn signalled Sunday that he would wait for the outcome of the EU summit before trying to force an early election.
But he added that there was “a strong possibility” that those polls would come before the Christmas break.