Page last updated at 11:37 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 12:37 UK

Australia final 'was bomb target'

Chief suspect Abdul Nacer Benbrika, file, ABC Australia
Abdul Nacer Benbrika is accused of being the group's spiritual leader

A group of alleged terrorists planned to attack one of Australia's main sport events, a Melbourne court has heard.

Testifying against the 12 accused men, one of their former associates said they had planned a bomb attack on the 2005 Australian Rules football final.

Izzydeen Atik told the court the attack was postponed because of police raids conducted in the months beforehand.

The 12 suspects deny charges that they formed a terror cell in Melbourne and planned a "violent jihad".

Huge target

The Australian Rules football final is one of the biggest dates in the country's sporting calendar, attracting crowds of almost 100,000 people to the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The court heard that the men were intending to target the final in September 2005, but decided to postpone the attack after police and Australian intelligence services raided the homes of some of the group members the preceding July.

Mr Atik said the raids had prompted security concerns within the group, and also led to the seizure of money which would have financed the attack.

Instead, Mr Atik said the group decided to target a casino in the city on the weekend of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix and another Australian Rules football match.

He claimed that the man accused of being the group's spiritual leader, Abdul Nacer Benbrika, had shown him a video of masked men beheading a hostage dressed in orange, and then said: "This is the type of thing we should learn."

Mr Atik was appearing as a witness at the ongoing trial of the 12 men in the Victorian Supreme Court.

During his evidence, he admitted to using stolen credit cards to buy aeroplane tickets and mobile phones for the accused men.

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