The Islamic State notably highlighted an Australian New Year’s Eve terror plot in their weekly newsletter, noting that the would-be attacker would have caused “catastrophic” casualties in “one of the most important centers where Christians meet” to ring in the holiday.
The focus on New Year’s by an official ISIS publication follows several Christmas threats circulated by ISIS supporters.
Ali Khalif Shire Ali, 20, of Werribee was arrested Nov. 27 in southwest Melbourne and charged with preparing to commit a terrorist attack and gathering documents to facilitate a terrorist act.
According to police, the Australian citizen and computer company employee started planning an attack back in March and was arrested when he moved to the stage of face-to-face meetings about acquiring a gun. His intended target was reportedly Melbourne’s Federation Square when it would be packed with New Year’s Eve revelers.
Police said he was using attack instructional guides produced by al-Qaeda. He had been under scrutiny by counter-terrorism officials for at least two years, though did not attend a specific mosque.
“This is a person who would become particularly energized, for a lack of a better word, when overseas events occurred and would express a great deal of interest in committing an attack himself,” Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said. “…This is a person who’s expressed an intention to try and kill as many people as he could through shooting them in the Federation Square area on New Year’s Eve. Horrendous.”
Just a few days after his arrest, in ISIS’ weekly al-Naba newsletter, the Aussie arrest was included in the terror group’s news briefs — a section where they’ve previously updated ISIS followers on the Las Vegas mass shooting and California wildfires.
The ISIS article noted that “the young man” was planning “to carry out a major attack on a gathering of Christian communities to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Melbourne.”
They noted that Ali was “sympathetic to the Islamic State”; authorities said he had links to other extremists.
ISIS highlighted how police warned that the attack would have been “catastrophic” had Ali followed through on his plot, as he “was intending to buy a submachine gun” and shoot a “large number of Crusaders celebrating New Year’s Eve” in “one of the most important centers where Christians meet in the city to celebrate their day.”
The singling-out of the New Year’s attack plot comes as the official ISIS Nashir channel on Telegram this week exhorted followers in the West to run over people, go on a stabbing spree or conduct a mass shooting.
ISIS supporters have also been churning out propaganda calling for holiday attacks, including one poster showing Santa with a case of dynamite overlooking New York’s Times Square.
“We meet at Christmas in New York… soon,” read the text on the image.
It followed propaganda posters making holiday threats toward Europe, with a hand holding a bloody knife before a market in the neighborhood of the Eiffel Tower and a black-clad jihadist standing over Santa on London’s Regent Street.
Earlier, the ISIS-supporting Wafa’ Media Foundation released numerous threats against the holiday and against the Vatican. In a recent message to fellow jihadists, the group noted that “the crusaders’ feast is approaching.”
In another instance, Wafa’ circulated a poster depicting a vehicle moving toward the Vatican with a cache of weapons, vowing “Christmas blood.”
ISIS followers have favored attacks during the holiday season, with the 2015 attack on a San Bernardino County Christmas party by Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik as well as last December’s truck attack on the Berlin Christmas market by Anis Amri.
Last New Year’s Eve, an ISIS gunman, Uzbek national Abdulkadir Masharipov, massacred 39 people at Istanbul’s upscale Reina nightclub.