Buy explosives in Tasmania, terror accused told

HE IS known to the court only as SIO 39, an intelligence operative trying to infiltrate an alleged group of Muslim terrorists. He was talking to Abdul Nacer Benbrika, a self-styled cleric and the alleged leader of the group, about how best to buy ingredients for explosives.
In recordings played to the Supreme Court yesterday, he told Benbrika that Tasmania was the place to go. In Melbourne, he joked, “Everywhere you go (with a beard), they say, ‘Ah, there’s a terrorist!’ ”
But Tasmania, where he had once worked blowing up tree stumps, was a place where a bearded Muslim man would not raise suspicion.
“A lot of the loggers that cut the trees – you know, the workers – they have beards. They don’t shave the moustache. They grow . . . bigger than you . . . long red beards. So they don’t care,” he said.
“Thanks be to Allah,” replied Benbrika in Arabic.
The agent said if he went to buy materials “for this job” in Hobart, he would have to go by boat “cos I can’t bring ’em on the plane, you know”. He explained the ferry Spirit of Tasmania could take him and a car there and back.
Benbrika asked him, “If you bring, can you show me how to do it?”
“Yeah, of course, sheikh, Allah willing.”
The agent warned Benbrika he would need someone to show him what to do so that he did not hurt himself: “You put a detonator on the end of the fuse and you have to . . . squeeze the detonator so the fuse doesn’t come off.
“Now if you squeeze the wrong part, that detonator, it’s only got a little bit of explosive in it, that detonator will explode, and your . . . whole hand will blow off.”
Benbrika asked whether the agent could still get the materials “now, after 11 September?”
The agent replied, “In Hobart – there’s water in between, you know. It’s like a different world down there, you know. There, they’ve never seen Muslims . . . It’s all farmers. And you can get it.”
The agent said he believed his sources stole the ingredients from the Army Reserve and said, “That’s the disbelievers’ army. Who cares if we steal it?”
The conversations, covertly recorded by investigators, took place at Benbrika’s home in September 2004.
Benbrika and 11 other men have pleaded not guilty to charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation pursuing violent jihad.
The trial continues.

First published in The Age.