Police say the Islamic State directed plane bomb plot in Australia

Commissioner Michael Phelan said it was one of the most sophisticated plots

Police say the Islamic State directed plane bomb plot in Australia

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan (right) and New South Wales state Police Deputy Commissioner David Hudson discuss details of the charging of two men with terrorism offenses in Sydney | Image: Rick Rycroft/AP/Press Association Images

A commander in Islamic State ordered a group of Australian men to build a bomb destined for an Etihad Airways flight departing from Sydney, police have said.

The improvised explosive device was intended to be smuggled onto a flight on July 15th, but the plan was aborted before the device reached airport security.

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan said the instructions to the group were "coming from a senior member of the Islamic State".

Mr Phelan described this person as a "commander" based overseas.

Police said the commander had organised for the parts of the IED to be sent to the men in Australia via international cargo from Turkey and that he had instructed them on how to build the bomb.

"With assistance from the ISIL commander, the accused assembled the IED into what we believe was a functioning IED to be placed on that flight."

Mr Phelan described the explosive as "high-end", adding: "I don't want to be specific because it's still under examination for the exactness of it but high military grade explosive".

"This is one of the most sophisticated plots that has ever been attempted on Australian soil."

One of the men had brought the device to Sydney Airport in a piece of luggage he asked his brother to take with him on the flight, Mr Phelan said, adding that the brother had not been told about the bag's contents.

But, for some reason, the man had left the airport with the bag and the brother, who has not been charged in relation to the plot, continued onto the flight without the bag.

"There is a little bit of conjecture as to why it didn't go ahead. It didn't get past the check-in," he said.

Chemical dispersion device

A second plot, hatched after the failure of the first, is alleged to have involved a "chemical dispersion device" which would release highly-toxic gas, described as having been in the early stages.

No target had been chosen but an Islamic State member had given the men suggestions, such as crowded areas or public transport.

Mr Phelan said the hydrogen sulphide gas was "very difficult to make", adding that "while it may be a hypothetical plot, we were a long way from having a functional device".

Mr Phelan said: "Not only have we stopped the IED that was believed to go on the plane but we have also completely disrupted the intended chemical dispersion device."

Khaled Khayat (49) and Mahmoud Khayat (32) have been charged with two counts of planning a terrorist act.

Barrister Michael Coroneos appeared on behalf of both men at a brief court hearing on Friday in Sydney, and the case was adjourned until November 14th.

Outside court, Mr Coroneos said: "They're entitled to the presumption of innocence", declining to answer any other questions.

Police allege the men began communicating with Islamic State in April.

They were arrested on July 29th, three days after Australian authorities received a tip from intelligence agencies.

A third man is still being questioned and a fourth was released without charge.