Network of Teens Allegedly Plotted to Target Jews After Church Stabbing

A group of teenagers in Australia discussed buying weapons and attacking Jewish people in the days after a bishop was stabbed in a church in Sydney, according to reports.

Five adolescents were charged last week on multiple charges including conspiring to engage in or planning a terrorist act. The defendants—all between the ages of 14 and 17—belonged to a network that, according to police, also included the 16-year-old accused of stabbing the Assyrian Orthodox Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel during a livestreamed service in his church.

According to a police fact sheet tendered to a local court, four of the teenagers charged last used the encrypted messaging app Signal to plan their attack, The Daily Telegraph reports. “I wanna die and I wanna kill … I’m just excited,” one 17-year-old allegedly wrote on April 20, five days after the church stabbing, later asking: “Is your plan to get caught or die or escape?”

A 15-year-old allegedly messaged a group chat titled “Plans” a day earlier to say: “I really want to target the yahood,” referring to Jewish people. Two of the group also discussed buying guns on the same day that the boy allegedly responsible for the bishop’s stabbing was charged.

One of the group even allegedly wrote of the church stabbing “I know the bloke who done it he’s my mate.”

“Allah is the best of planners and we are the soldiers of Allah,” the 16-year-old allegedly wrote.

New South Wales Police Force told the Associated Press it could not confirm the accuracy of media reports about the fact sheet.

On Sunday, Emmanuel gave a sermon at the Christ the Good Shepherd Church in the Sydney suburb of Wakeley—his first sermon there since the attack. The 53-year-old wore an eyepatch during the service and said he’d lost the use of his right eye.

“This young man who did this act almost two weeks ago, I say to you, my dear, you are my son and you will always be my son,” he said of his attacker. “I will always pray for you. I will always wish you nothing but the best.”

Emmanuel also spoke about the importance of free speech as the Australian government has become embroiled in a bitter row with Elon Musk over the billionaire’s opposition to orders compelling social media companies to remove graphic posts of the stabbing from their platforms. “For us to say that free speech is dangerous, that free speech cannot be possible in a democratic country, I’m yet to fathom this,” Emmanuel said, according to The Guardian.

The boy accused of being responsible for the attack has been charged with committing a terrorist act. He could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

In an interview with Australia’s ABC, the boy’s parents said he was not a terrorist but said he’d previously shown violent behavior and had a suspected autism spectrum disorder. ABC said the teen had liked violent extremist content online in the months leading up to the attack, and claimed he “used a smiling portrait of Osama Bin Laden as his WhatsApp profile picture.”

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