Australian police release man arrested in plot to bomb plane

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SYDNEY (AP) — A man arrested in connection with what Australian authorities say was a plot to bring down a plane was released from police custody on Sunday after being charged with a weapons offense.

Khaled Merhi, 39, who was arrested on July 29 along with three other men in raids across Sydney, was charged with possession of a prohibited weapon and granted bail, Australian Federal Police said in a statement. He was not charged with any terrorism-related offenses.

Two of the men arrested alongside Merhi — 49-year-old Khaled Khayat and 32-year-old Mahmoud Khayat — were charged last week with two counts of planning a terrorist act. Police say they were involved in an aborted attempt to place an improvised explosive device on an Etihad Airways flight out of Sydney last month in a plot directed by the Islamic State group.

One other man arrested during the raids was released without charge last week.

Police say the plot involved a sophisticated attempt to get a device containing military-grade explosives on board an Etihad flight. Khaled Khayat has been accused of bringing the device to Sydney airport on July 15 in a piece of luggage that police say he asked his brother to take with him on the flight. For unknown reasons, the bag never got past the check-in counter. Police say Khayat's brother had no idea the bag contained explosives.

Merhi is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 24.

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