The Islamic State's ability to inspire individuals all around the world to commit acts of terror has been one of the most worrying aspects of the militant group's rise. However, there have been repeated reminders that the "lone wolfs" it inspires may not be so capable of organizing elaborate terror plots – even if they still have the potential to cause harm.
That point has been hammered home by the case of Sevdet Besim, a 19-year-old man on trial in Australia for allegedly planning to commit a terror attack in Melbourne last year. Besim has been accused of attempting an unusual method for a terror attack: packing a kangaroo full of explosives and setting it loose on Australian police officers.
Besim is pleading not guilty to four charges. But prosecutors say that he was planning an Islamic State-inspired terror plot over the phone and Internet ahead of last year's ANZAC Day, a national day of remembrance for Australians and New Zealanders who have died in wars and peacekeeping operations.
The Australian Broadcasting Company reports that court documents from the prosecution contained a summary of Besim's alleged discussions of the plot with an accomplice based in Britain:
" 'Communications resume in the early hours of Thursday 20 March 2015 with an image being sent by BESIM with a comment of "look what I got ahaha",' the court documents said.
" 'The conversation continues with BESIM detailing what he did that day and they have a general discussion around animals and wildlife in Australia including a suggestion that a kangaroo could be packed with C4 explosive, painted with the IS [Islamic State] symbol and set loose on police officers.' "
While the kangaroo plot may be farfetched, Besim is also alleged to have eventually settled on a more realistic plan: running over a police officer with a car and then beheading the officer. "I'd love to take out some cops," Besim allegedly wrote. "I was gonna meet with them then take some heads." The teenager allegedly told his accomplice that he was "ready to fight these dogs on there [sic] doorstep."
The plan to behead a police officer bears some similarities to the 2013 murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in London.
Besim has been in custody since a year ago. In October the British 15-year-old alleged to have been his accomplice was sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Manchester, England, making him Britain's youngest convicted terrorist. The Manchester court had heard that Besim's plot to behead a police officer would have "in all probability" succeeded unless police in Britain had not found material on the unnamed accomplice's phone and contacted Australian authorities.
Sentencing the British teenager, Judge John Saunders said the real blame lay with "those extremists who were prepared to use the Internet to encourage extreme views in a boy of 14 and then use him to carry out terrorist acts."