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.


US opens first round of resurrected peace talks with Taliban

Updated 07 December 2019

US opens first round of resurrected peace talks with Taliban

  • The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence
  • Permanent cease-fire would be the eventual goal, said a US statement

KABUL: US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held on Saturday the first official talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban since President Donald Trump declared a near-certain peace deal with the insurgents dead in September.
The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal, said a US statement. Khalilzad is also trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict.
The meetings being held in the Middle eastern State of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, follow several days of talks in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, where Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
The Taliban have so far refused direct talks with Ghani calling him a US puppet.
Ghani leads the Afghan government with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in a power-sharing agreement brokered by the United States after the presidential elections in 2014 were so deeply mired in corruption that a clear winner could not be determined.
To head off a conflict Washington stepped in and forced the two leading candidates __ Ghani and Abdullah __ to share power in a so-called Unity Government that has been largely paralyzed because of the relentless bickering between the two leaders.
The Afghan government is now embroiled in a fresh elections standoff. Presidential polls on Sept. 28 again ended in accusations of misconduct and corruption, with no results yet announced.
Repeat leading contender Abdullah has challenged the recounting of several hundred thousand ballots, accusing his opponent Ghani of trying to manipulate the tally.
Meanwhile, Khalilzad’s return to his peace mission followed Trump’s surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to Afghanistan in which he said talks with the Taliban were back on.
While Khalilzad is talking to the Taliban about reducing violence, the US military in its daily report said overnight on Saturday US airstrikes killed 37 Taliban and operations by the Afghan National Security Forces killed another 22 of the militants.
The insurgents have continued to carry put near daily strikes against military outposts throughout the country. They now hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan.
Trump has expressed frustration with America’s longest war repeatedly saying he wants to bring the estimated 12,000 US soldiers home and calling on Afghanistan’s own police and military to step up. The Afghan government has also been criticized for its relentless corruption.