Brother of Australian militant attacker pleads guilty to another plot

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The brother of an Australian man who set fire to a truck laden with gas cylinders and stabbed a person to death in Melbourne in 2018 pleaded guilty on Wednesday to planning another attack in the city’s main square.

Ali Khalif Shire Ali, 22, was due to face trial after being accused of trying to obtain a gun for an attack in Melbourne’s Federation Square in late 2017, according to an indictment provided to the media.

He pleaded guilty in the Victoria state Supreme Court on Wednesday, according to a transcript of the hearing that was made public. He did not otherwise speak in court, according to the transcript.

Until Wednesday, the judge overseeing the case had banned media from reporting that the 22-year-old was the brother of Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, 30, who died in a separate attack last year.

In his ruling, Supreme Court justice John Champion revoked the suppression order on the grounds that it was only intended to run until the end of the man’s trial. A guilty plea automatically ends the need for a trial in Australian courts.

A sentencing hearing for Ali Khalif Shire Ali is scheduled for Aug. 23.

From March 31 to April 6, 2017, he made inquiries about getting a gun for “an attack on people in the city of Melbourne, specifically at Federation Square, at the end of the year in 2017,” the indictment said.

“The action was to be done with the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause, namely the advancement of Islam through violence,” it added.

The planned act “was not to be done as advocacy, protest, dissent or industrial action.”

The 22-year-old was arrested in November 2017, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.

A year later, his brother Hassan Ali set fire to a pick-up truck loaded with gas cylinders in the city centre and stabbed three people, killing one, during the evening rush hour. Ali was shot by police and died later.

Militant group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the 2018 attack, without providing evidence.

Australian authorities said Somali-born Hassan Ali appeared to have been radicalized by the group’s propaganda although there was no sign he was directly linked to Islamic State.

A staunch U.S. ally, Australia has been on alert for militant violence after a Sydney cafe siege in 2014, and its intelligence agencies have stepped up their efforts.

Reporting by Byron Kaye; editing by Darren Schuettler

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