National News

NYE Melbourne terror plot admission

The brother of a terrorist who murdered a Melbourne restaurateur has himself pleaded guilty to preparing for a New Year's Eve terror attack in the heart of the city.

During a Supreme Court of Victoria hearing on Wednesday, Ali Khalif Shire Ali, 22, pleaded guilty to one charge of preparing or planning a terrorist attack, namely by making inquiries about gaining access to a firearm and ammunition.

Ali, an Australian citizen, was due to stand trial over the accusation that between March and April 2017 he planned for the December 31 attack at Federation Square, a popular public space.

Ali is the younger brother of 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, who fatally stabbed Pellegrini's Espresso Bar owner Sisto Malaspina, 74, in November last year.

The killer was shot at the scene by police and later died in hospital.

The younger sibling had previously denied his terror charge in a committal hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court.

He had been subjected to a lengthy police investigation, with a phone tap in place from October 2016 until his arrest, the court was told at the committal hearing.

Ali was also subject to physical surveillance and his spending activity was tracked.

He has been in custody since November 2017, when police arrested him at a Werribee shopping strip.

It was alleged he attempted to buy a gun for the attack, was described as an "ISIL sympathiser" and allegedly accessed an al-Qaeda guidebook with information on how to commit a terrorist act and use firearms.

Police at the time said the human cost of the plot would have been "catastrophic ... horrendous".

It is not the first time Federation Square has been the target of terrorism plots.

In November last year, Ibrahim Abbas was jailed for 24 years after admitting he planned a terror attack on Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and St Paul's Cathedral for Christmas Day 2016.

His co-conspirators Hamza Abbas, Abdullah Chaarani and Ahmed Mohamed are yet to be sentenced after being found guilty by a Supreme Court jury.

The plot was foiled just days before the attack by police who had been listening to their preparations and watching as they carried out reconnaissance at Federation Square.

A pre-sentence plea hearing for Ali has been set down for August 23.

© AAP 2019