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Brother of Bourke Street attacker pleads guilty to preparing for terrorist act

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The brother of the man who stabbed the Melbourne cafe owner Sisto Malaspina to death has pleaded guilty to preparing for a New Year’s Eve terrorist attack in the city.

At a supreme court of Victoria hearing on Wednesday, Ali Khalif Shire Ali, 22, pleaded guilty to one charge of preparing for a terrorist act, his lawyer, Jarrod Williams, confirmed.

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Ali, an Australian citizen, was due to stand trial over the accusation that between March and April 2017 he prepared to commit a terrorist act at Federation Square on 31 December the same year. He had previously pleaded not guilty in a committal hearing in Melbourne magistrates court.

A suppression order had previously prevented any reporting that Ali was the brother of Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, who was shot dead by police after a rampage in Bourke Street, central Melbourne, in November 2018. Hassan Khalif Shire Ali drove a car into the shopping area, set fire to gas cylinders and then lashed out at bystanders, killing 74-year-old Malaspina and injuring others.

Ali Khalif Shire Ali 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 a committal hearing. He 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”.

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