Lebanese intelligence helped foil a plot by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) to bring down an airliner with bombs hidden inside a Barbie doll and a meat grinder, the country’s interior minister said Monday.
Nouhad Machnouk told reporters that Lebanese police intelligence stopped the explosive device plot on the Emirati flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He said the main suspect, Amer Khayyat, tried to take two explosive devices onto the plane in the event that one did not detonate successfully.
Lebanese authorities arrested Khayyat when he landed in the country from Australia in mid-July. He had planned to blow up the plane in midair 20 minutes after takeoff.
The suspect did not take the devices, which were hidden inside a handbag, onto the plane because they weighed 15 pounds over the airline’s limit.
“The operation was foiled because of the extra weight,” Machnouk said. “Intelligence branch followed on the case and found that Amer was involved in this act, and it appears that he was supposed to carry it out.”
Machnouk said four Lebanese-Australian brothers were involved in the plot. Two of Amer Khayyat’s brothers, Khaled and Mahmoud Khayyat, had been detained in Australia; the fourth, identified as Tarek Khayyat, was a member of ISIS living in Syria.
The airline at the center of the plot remains unknown, but Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, has said it is assisting the investigation.
The flight held around 400 passengers, 120 of them Lebanese. The minister said the suspects wanted to avenge the UAE and Australia for being members of the anti-ISIS coalition bombing the group in Iraq and Syria.
Initial reports suggested the plot involved gassing the aircraft with a makeshift device, which would have presented a new threat to aviation security.
Machnouk called for intelligence agencies to work together. “When four Lebanese brothers in Australia decide to blow up an Emirati jet, this means that the whole world should work together to fight terrorism,” he said. “Coordination should be 24 hours a day between all security agencies to stop such attacks.”
Some of the most deadly plans in recent years have been hatched with the intention of blowing up an airliner.
In 2004, two suicide bombers set off devices on separate domestic Russian flights carrying a total of 90 people, none of whom survived. In October 2015, explosives hidden inside a can brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing more than 200 people on board.
ISIS has encouraged its followers to attack Australia, and the country has suffered several attacks by individuals who authorities believe were radicalized or inspired by the group. In 2014, a man besieged a café in Sydney, killing one person before police shot him dead. Another person died when a police bullet ricocheted during the raid on the café.