With the startling news this week that two Australian brothers have been arrested in Yemen on gun-running charges and suspicion of being al-Qaeda terrorists comes the bizarre but equally startling report that their mother is a burqa-clad, former dope-smoking hippy who got stoned once too often and converted to Islam. According to early reports here, the boys, who remain in jail in Sanaa under CIA watch, had also been under observation in Sydney last year over yet another foiled plot to carry out a London-style terror attack on Australian soil.
While this part of the story has since been denied by Australian anti-terror police, who are questioning two others over that plot, there was speculation earlier that if mum was supplying, it must have been some good shit, because this time the target was to have been Kings Cross railway station in Sydney, and good luck with that, because people have been trying to clean the place up for decades without making a dent.
The Cross is Sydney's equivalent of San Francisco's tenderloin district, or Soho in London, only dirtier and sleazier, if that's possible. The station is one of the stops on the short, eastern suburbs underground line. It's a big lump of steaming brown stuff in the middle of a string of pearls running from the swank central business district out to Bondi Junction and some of the world's most expensive harbour- and beach-front real estate.
But Australia is nothing if not egalitarian, so it's not unusual after a train stop in the Cross for a businessman in an Armani suit and $500 shoes to be standing next to a nodding off, toothless junkie in a Salvation Army tracksuit, someone else's sneakers, and pretending to read a newspaper upside down to try to look normal. And you just know this clown's contribution to society this evening is a well-spent few hours of constructive breaking and entering and opportunistic pilfering. It's also not beyond the realms of possibility that they'll both end up at the same house.
So had the initial report of the bomb plot been true, just getting to the station might have been a drama for Mohammed and Abdullah Ayub, as it's hard work for anyone, let alone a devout muslim, to successfully negotiate the prostitutes lining the main drag of Darlinghurst Rd, the discarded needles, the loud-mouthed touts outside the 24-hour strip joints (blink and you're in, almost by osmosis), the heroin addicts trying to get on and hanging around the ATMs, or the few remaining public phones that actually work, the drunks, the muggers, the homeless people, the jaded cops, and the swarthy drug dealers in BMWs (what they sell to the junkies isn't called dope for nothing).