"Wouldn't be able to cut a cucumber": Police remove the sword, one of the major symbols of Shiite Islam, during the September 18 raids.
"Wouldn't be able to cut a cucumber": Police remove
the sword, one of the major symbols of Shiite Islam, during the
September 18 raids. Photo: AAP

It was one of the most frightening, powerful images to emerge from counter-terrorism raids across Sydney last month.

As one man was charged with conspiring to behead a random
person in Sydney's CBD, police removed a sword in an evidence bag from a
Marsfield home.

But the owner of the menacing item has revealed that it is
actually a plastic decoration common in almost every Shiite Muslim

Mustafa Dirani, a 21-year-old part-time painter, was detained
and his parents' Marsfield home raided at dawn on September 18 as part
of the Joint Counter-Terrorism Team's Operation Appleby.

He said he doesn't know Omarjan Azari, who was detained,
along with two of Azari's brothers, when their Guildford home was raided
on the same day.

Azari, 22, was charged with conspiring to commit a terrorist
act after allegedly speaking to terrorist Mohammad Ali Baryalei via
phone and taking orders to seize a random person from the city's streets
and behead them.

Dirani was detained and later released without charge.

His parents' Marsfield home was searched for about eight
hours and several items taken including computers, mobile phones and the

The sword has an Arabic inscription on it that reads:لا فتى إلا علي لا سيف إلا ذو الفقار

It roughly translates to: "[There is] no hero but Ali; [there is] no sword but Zulfiqar".

The sword - a Zulfiqar or Dhu al-Fiqar - is one of the major
symbols of Shiite Islam that one leader said "wouldn't be able to cut a

Dirani's family are Afghani-born Shiite Muslims, however, the
terrorist groups seeking to overthrow governments in Syria and Iraq are
almost exclusively Sunni Muslim.

Dirani said his parents bought the plastic sword at a night
market in Sydney. It has been on display in the family home for years.

He is still waiting for the police to return it.

Jamal Daoud, a prominent member of Sydney's Shiite community,
said the sword would be found in almost every Shiite household as a
decorative item either hanging on the wall or sitting in a drawer.

Sheikh Zaid Alsalami, leader of the Nabi Akram Islamic Centre
in Granville, said many Shiite Muslims would also wear the sword as a
pendant similar to Christians wearing a crucifix necklace.

"It basically denotes the sword that was carried by Imam Ali,
the first Shia Imam," he said. "The Prophet handed Imam Ali this
particular sword [in a battle]. It's not anything of any ritual value,
it's just a reminder of something that represents the relation that Imam
Ali had with the Prophet."

Another Shiite leader, who didn't wish to be named, said the
sword is usually made from plastic, wood or blunt metal. It is bought
from jewellery shops, religious shops and online.

"Sometimes it's made out of metal but you wouldn't be able to
cut a cucumber with it," he said. "This item is not attached to any
events overseas or anything like a war-style weapon."

Dirani said he had been living in fear since the September 18 raids and was too scared to go to the shops.

When Fairfax Media visited him at his Marsfield home, he was
wearing tracksuit pants and a T-shirt, playing X-box with another person
detained during the raids, Maywand Osman.

"Do we look like terrorists?" he asked. "It's ridiculous. I
have never talked about carrying out a terrorist attack, I've never
thought about it, it has never even crossed my mind."

The warrant from the Australian Federal Police still sits on a bookshelf in the family's duplex home.

It says: "Between 8 May 2014 and 17 September 2014 in the
state of NSW and elsewhere, Mustafa Dirani did engage in other acts done
in preparation for or planning terrorist acts contrary to Section 101.6
of the Criminal Code."

Dirani and Osman, who met at Epping Boys High School, had not
come to the attention of counter-terrorism authorities before but have
both had run-ins with the law.

Osman recently pleaded not guilty to charges arising from a
car crash, in which he was allegedly chasing a group of men who had been
bashed with bats, poles and a machete.

His passenger, Dirani, was given an eight-month suspended sentence for affray and concealing a serious indictable offence.

The AFP have been contacted for comment.

Media storm

In the wake of the raids, it was widely reported that AFP
officers had confiscated a sword for forensic testing, with some stories
picturing the ceremonial sword sealed inside a federal police evidence
bag. In the context of an alleged plot to "behead" a random victim,
ordered by one of the most senior Australians serving with Islamic State
forces, Mohammad Ali Baryalei, the sword appeared to be a weapon.

The Daily Mail Australia linked it directly to the beheading plot under the headline: "Was this the lethal sword terror cell planned to use to behead an innocent victim on a Sydney street?"

The Daily Telegraph set the beheading plot claim beside the discovery of the sword.

Many articles by Fairfax Media described the sword as large
and curved with a gold handle and engraved with Arabic writing. Police
did not explain to the media at the time that the sword was plastic.

In the article "Sword taken from duplex", News Corp's Courier-Mail directly linked the object with the threat of beheadings:

"More than 1m long, the sword was carried from the home in a
federal police evidence bag (right). Police believe its owner was one of
at least 15 men plotting to kidnap an Australian from the streets and
decapitate them."