Omar Al-Kutobi believed in what Islamic State preached but was worried about hurting someone, so he ran from an intended fire bombing and lied to a Syrian terror recruiter about being chased by NSW police.
The 25-year-old says he is no longer a follower of the extremist organisation but in February 2015, a month after first becoming a supporter, he and Mohammad Kiad made a video in which threats to stab vital organs and decapitate people were made.
The men, who are accused of planning to firebomb a western Sydney Shia prayer hall and kill a member of the public with a knife, have pleaded guilty to one count of acting in preparation for a terrorist act.
Al-Kutobi has told a sentencing hearing at the NSW Supreme Court of the men’s bungled attempt to firebomb the Shia temple in Sydney’s west but denies any further plot, including targeting a police station.
On February 7, 2015, the pair surveilled the Guildford temple.
They returned the next night with a jug of home-made napalm hoping to damage the building they thought would be closed and empty.
But after driving through Sydney’s west, parking their car and walking to the hall at about 8pm, they spotted a man having a smoke near a car park gate, Al- Kutobi said.
He said they thought twice about the attack when they saw the man and wondered what would have happened if they had firebombed the temple while the man was inside.
“When we saw him, straight away, we changed our minds and ran away,” he said, adding they were both on drugs and paranoid.
“That’s what made us buckle … thank God that man came out.”
Al-Kutobi maintained the men only wanted to damage the building and not harm anyone.
The men didn’t throw the bomb but they had a problem.
An IS recruiter over in Syria wanted to know how their so-called “operation” had gone.
“That was the intention, to prove ourselves to go to Syria, ” Al-Kutobi said.
“Our intention was never about hurting someone.”
So the men lied and cooked up a story about being chased by police, Al-Kutobi said.
They wanted to travel to help the ‘brothers and sisters’ oppressed under the Assad regime, the court heard.
They never made it overseas.
Al-Kutobi and Kiad were arrested at the Fairfield granny flat they shared after raids by the Joint Counter Terrorism Team in February 2015.
A hunting knife, bought an hour before their arrest, and a homemade Islamic State flag were among the items seized, along with a machete.
Al-Kutobi on Thursday said the machete belonged to the owner of the flat he rented and was used it to trim banana trees in the garden.
But, the court heard, holes had been drilled along the blade and a wrist-strap attached.
“The knife looks better to have a photo with (after the modifications),” Al- Kutobi explained.
A video in which Al-Kutobi knelt before an Islamic State flag and vowed to stab people in the kidneys with a note declaring he and Kiad “are here to cut your head” was shot in the flat.
The written decapitation threat was “like poetry”, Al-Kutobi said.
“I never meant what’s being said in it,” he told the court about the video.