MELBOURNE, Australia – Twelve terror suspects planned to bomb a packed sports stadium during the grand final match of the Australian Football League in 2005, a witness testified Tuesday.
Izzydeen Atik, a former associate of the suspects, told Australia’s Victorian Supreme Court that the stadium plot was postponed after police raided the suspects’ homes and seized their assets in June 2005.
Atik said alleged terror cell leader Abdul Nacer Benbrika told him about the plot and subsequent plans to bomb Melbourne’s Crown Casino during the Formula One Grand Prix and an AFL preseason match.
Benbrika, an Algerian immigrant to Australia, and 11 other men have pleaded not guilty to charges of being members of a terrorist group and related charges. Prosecutors say the 12 intended to undertake “violent jihad” in Australia, had discussed killing former Prime Minister John Howard, and identified railway stations and sports fields as likely targets.
Atik, a former religious student of cleric Benbrika, told the court he used stolen credit card numbers to buy airplane tickets and mobile phones for the accused men. He faces separate charges of credit card fraud.
The 12 terror suspects on trial in Melbourne were arrested in November 2005 and their trial began in February.
The suspects face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted of membership in a terrorist group.
Most of them are reportedly born or naturalized Australians with Muslim immigrant backgrounds.
UPDATE from Robert Spencer: Several Australians have emailed me to say that this is not another case of soccer jihad, because Australian Rules Football is not soccer. My apologies — I don’t even know what inning we’re in.