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A Homegrown Terrorist Cell: Observations of a Police Undercover Operative

Studies in Conflict and TerrorismJournal abstract

On 10 October 2004, an improvised explosive device was detonated in bush land in the vicinity of Mount Disappointment on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. A relatively small device, it was assembled and detonated by one of the two men present, a Victoria Police officer and undercover operative known as Security Intelligence Officer 39, or SIO39. The other person was the leader of a homegrown terrorist cell, who in the months preceding had assembled a group of a dozen individuals who became the subject of Australia’s largest counterterrorism investigation known as Operation Pendennis. This article, which is based on in-depth interviews with SIO39, provides unique insights into a range of activities and behaviors peculiar to this cohort. Commencing his association with the group early in its development, SIO39 was privy to some of its key evolutionary stages, from a collection of individuals meeting more or less in the open, to a clandestine body that clearly harbored terrorist intent and undertook a number of overt acts to advance its violent objectives.