Australian ‘Barbie bomb’ brothers face firing squad in Lebanon

Australian ‘Barbie bomb’ brothers face firing squad in Lebanon
2 min read
24 March, 2018
Amer Khatib is facing execution for his alleged role in a failed plane bombing attack last year, while his three brothers and alleged accomplices will be sentenced in absentia.
Attackers allegedly targeted an Etihad flight travelling from Sydney to Abu Dhabi [Getty]
Five Lebanese-Australian men are facing the death penalty in Lebanon for allegedly attempting to bomb an Etihad plane in July last year using a bomb hidden inside a Barbie doll.

According to The Australian, Lebanese military court judge Alaa Khatib has recommended the death penalty - likely to be hanging or firing squad - for all five men, although four of the group are being tried in absentia.

The attack - allegedly thwarted by Israeli intelligence - targeted an Etihad flight carrying 400 people from Sydney to Abu Dhabi on July 15 of last year. Attackers reportedly planned to detonate a self-timed bomb hidden inside a Barbie doll that would set of a bigger bomb disguised in a commercial meat grinder.

Amer Khayat, a dual Lebanese-Australian citizen, is the only member of the suspected terror group being held in Lebanon and likely to face firing squad. Four other members - including two of Khayat's brothers in Australian custody - will be tried in absentia in Beirut on May 4.

Mahmout and Khaled Khayat were arrested in Sydney last August and charged with two counts of plotting a terrorist attack. It is unlikely however that Australia will extradite them to Lebanon to face the death penalty.

A third member of the group, Tareq Khayat, is allegedly in hiding in Syria after travelling to join the Islamic State group. The fifth man accused, reportedly a relative of the Khayats, was arrested and interrogated in Sydney but released after no evidence was found linking him to the plot.

Lebanese authorities detained Sydney-based Amer Khayat in July last year after he aroused suspicion by making several trips to Tripoli to get married, only to get divorced shortly after.

According to Lebanese authorities, Amer Khayat told them of his attempt to smuggle explosives on the Etihad flight.

Amer has reportedly changed his account several times since his arrest and is thought to suffer psychological issues, which has cast doubt on his culpability, according to The Australian, who also reported that at one point during his questioning, Amer claimed he had been "set up" by his brothers. 

Australian federal security experts therefore recommend considering Amer's claims to the attack with caution. However the Lebanese military court are expected to go ahead with the execution.

The bombing was allegedly formulated inside IS-held Raqqa last year and may have relied on a Sydney airport employee to help smuggle the bombs through security.