Police raids in Melbourne’s northern suburbs foil alleged Christmas Day terror attack
Vision shows the scene of Melbourne terror raids
news.com.au, December 23, 2016
TERRORISTS planned a Christmas Day bomb attack targeting Melbourne landmarks including Federation Square and Flinders Street Station, police claim.
Six men and a woman were arrested and five males aged between 20 and 26 remain in custody. The suspects, believed to have been inspired by the Islamic State, are expected to appear in court today charged with acts in preparation of a terrorist event. Four are Australian-born with a Lebanese background and one is an Australian citizen born in Egypt.
“This is one of the most substantial terrorist plots [to] have been disrupted over the last several years,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “This news will be of great concern to all Australians. We congregate in public places for Christmas, for New Year’s Eve. It is a time of happiness and joy.
“These terrorists sought to disrupt it. They have been thwarted.”
The historic St Paul’s Cathedral and Flinders Street Station were among the alleged city centre targets. Picture: Eugene Hyland
Police remained at a property in Meadow Heights this morning where it is believed explosives are being stored in relation to the Christmas terror plot. Picture: Nicole Garmston
A major multi-agency operation by Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) foiled the alleged plot.
The alleged attack was set to include an “explosive event” and could have injured a “substantial” number of people, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said in a press conference this morning.
“We believe that there was an intention to conduct what we call a multimode attack, possibly on Christmas Day,” he said. “The possible locations that we have been working on have been Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and St Paul’s Cathedral.
“We’ve gained evidence that we believe is of a reconnaissance mission being conducted at that site. We believe there was an intention to attack in relation to that area, most likely on Christmas Day.”
He said the alleged attack being planned was going to involve “the use of explosives” and possibly knives and a firearm.
The landmarks targeted are all in the heart of the city, not far from the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where up to 100,000 people are due to attend the Boxing Day Test between Australia and Pakistan.
The alleged terror plot was reportedly intended to involve an “explosive event” that would kill or injure a significant number of people. Picture: Nicole Garmston
Malcolm Turnbull said police had foiled a “significant” terror plot. Picture: Peter Parks/AFP
Mr Ashton said police carried out five raids overnight across Melbourne’s northwest after a weeks-long investigation, arresting seven people.
A 24-year-old man from Meadow Heights, a 26-year-old man from Dallas, a 22 -year-old man from Campbellfield, a 21-year-old man from Flemington and a 21-year-old man from Gladstone Park are all in custody. A 20-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man, both from Meadow Heights, have been released without charge.
The chief commissioner called the suspects “self-radicalised but certainly inspired by ISIS and ISIS propaganda.”
Police were still at a property in Meadow Heights this morning where it is believed explosives are being stored in relation to the Christmas terror plot.
A man named Ahmed, 31, told the Herald Sun that around 30 officers in riot gear stormed his home in Gladstone Park at around 9pm last night and took one of his brothers into custody, leaving a trail of destruction behind.
Ahmed said around 30 officers in riot gear raided his Gladstone Park home last night and took his brother into custody. Picture: Nicole Garmston
“We’ve had an investigation that’s been running now for couple of weeks,” said Mr Ashton. “The individuals involved in this matter, the subject of that investigation, have been persons of interest for Victoria Police and intelligence agencies now for some period of time. They have been people we have been concerned about.
“Over the last fortnight that has accelerated to where we have had to conduct a criminal investigation relating to the formation of what we believe was a terrorist plot. As a result of the investigation, we believe we have neutralised that threat.”
Mr Turnbull addressed a press conference this morning alongside AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin and Justice Minister Michael Keenan.
“Islamist terrorism is a global challenge that affects us all,” said the Prime Minister. “But we must not be cowed by the terrorists.”
Mr Keenan said the operation marked a “successful disruption of what would have been a horrendous attack, an attack that may have caused very significant casualties.”
He said the alleged terror plotters “had moved very quickly from an intention to a capability, and developed capability, including quite progressed plans.”
Mr Colvin said the intent and capability of the suspects was among “the most serious” he had seen.
Five “self radicalised” males are due to appear in court today. Picture: Julian Smith
AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin and Minister for Justice Michael Keenan condemned the alleged planned attacks at a press conference with the Prime Minister. Picture: Peter Parks/AFP
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said there would be an increased police presence on the streets during the Christmas and New Year period.
Mr Andrews said the alleged planned attacks “were not acts of faith” but “acts of evil” and that “all of us, particularly at this special time of the year, should remember that.”
He thanked the AFP, Victoria Police and ASIO for foiling the alleged plot.
“What they have been able to foil here, what they have been able to uncover and stop, is a very, very serious matter,” he said.
“It goes to the heart of the security of our state and it’s a timely reminder that threat levels, persons of interest, the counter-terrorism command established by Victoria Police recently, the resources that we provide to Victoria Police, they are all very real and very important.
“These threats are not notional, they are very real right across our city and state.”
Australia’s national terrorism threat level was raised to probable in September 2014.
Since then, there have been four attacks, including the murder of a Sydney police employee last year, and 12 terror attacks have been prevented, according to Australian officials.
Police have made many arrests and are said to be particularly concerned about the young age and deep radicalisation of those detained.