A convicted terrorist recruiter in Australia faced a judge and jury this week on charges of plotting a terrorist attack against Sydney's famed Mardi Gras celebration.
Prosecutors argued in a New South Wales courtroom that Hamdi Alqudsi, 47, was the ringleader of Shura, an Islamic State terrorist cell in Australia that conspired to hang an ISIS flag from atop the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge and kill international tourists at the city's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebrations, according to the Australian Associated Press. Authorities say Alqudsi directed the group's activities from August 30 to December 31, 2014.
Alqudsi was previously convicted in 2016 of helping young men travel to Syria to fight on behalf of the Islamic State terrorist organization.
According to The Australian, prosecutor Patricia McDonald said Alquidsi and Shura pledged allegiance to ISIS through Alqudsi's contact in Syria, Mohammad Ali Baryalie.
"I want to make a pledge of allegiance very soon," Alqudsi allegedly messaged Baryalie. "I want to write my name down for a martyrdom operation please as soon as possible. Put my name in this list because my intention is to execute a great operation, God willing."
"It was a two-stage process: you give your pledge of allegiance, Islamic State is informed, and they then determine whether it's accepted," McDonald explained to the court earlier today, according to the paper.
At Baryalie's suggestion, Alqudsi and Shura had initially planned on hanging a flag from the Sydney Harbor Bridge as part of their videotaped pledge but opted instead to perform the event in a local national park.
Prosecutors said they used extensive wiretaps and monitored the electronic messages of Alqudsi and Shura, a situation that apparently did not go unnoticed by Alqudsi and others in the group. When Baryalei suggested he find recruits to locate "any random unbeliever" and kill them, Alquidis explained his predicament.
"The problem is that the boys who have heart, all of them, are under surveillance," a Shura member allegedly replied on behalf of Alqudsi.
"Find someone who can terminate five people for us every month," Baryalei allegedly responded. "If the person is a tourist like an American backpacker or a French tourist, even better because it's worldwide."
Alqudsi had been sentenced to eight years imprisonment in 2016, with at least six years served behind bars. It is unclear how much of that sentence he actually served.
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