Sydney police arrest teenager and man over 'terror plans'

  • 10 December 2015
  • From the section Australia
Media captionMoment a 20-year-old was arrested in Sydney in a counter-terror operation

Police in Sydney have arrested a 15-year-old and a 20-year-old in a counter-terror operation.

They have been charged with "conspiracy to conduct an act in preparation for a terrorist act", Federal Police said.

The arrests are linked to a plot outlined in material seized last year as part of Operation Appleby.

That operation, in September 2014, was sparked by intelligence reports that Islamist extremists were planning random killings in Australia.

Then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at the time a senior Australian Islamic State militant had called for "demonstration killings", reportedly including a public beheading.

Another three people, aged between 21 and 22, were also charged for the same offence on Thursday afternoon.

All face potential life sentences if convicted.

Image copyright Nathan Patterson/NSW Police
Image caption Police said the two are being charged with "conspiracy to conduct an act in preparation for a terrorist act"

Phil Mercer, BBC News, Sydney: "Continue to thwart attacks"

While its FA-18 fighters bomb so-called Islamic State targets many thousands of kilometres away, and its soldiers train Iraqi forces, Australia continues to confront the enemy within.

More counter-terrorism raids in Sydney have yielded further arrests, and will make an uneasy nation even more anxious on the eve of the first anniversary of the deadly Sydney siege.

Last month, a poll found that more than half of Australians thought a large-scale attack was likely, and one-quarter was convinced it was inevitable.

The prime minister has promised a "calm, clinical and effective" response to the menace of home-grown extremism.

"We cannot eliminate entirely the risk of terrorism any more than we can eliminate the risk of any serious crime," said Malcolm Turnbull in his first national security address. "But we can mitigate it. We will continue to thwart and frustrate many attacks before they occur."

Timeline of recent Australia terror incidents

  • 11 Aug 2014: Image emerges apparently showing young son of an Australian militant fighting in Syria holding the severed head of a soldier.
  • 14 Sep 2014: PM Tony Abbott commits 600 troops to international fight against the so-called Islamic State.
  • 18 Sep 2014: Australia carries out what it calls its biggest counter-terrorism raids over alleged random attacks.
  • 2 April: British police arrest a 14-year-old boy in connection with an alleged plot to target an Anzac memorial event in Australia.
  • 7 October: Four people detained in Sydney in connection with the killing of police worker Curtis Cheng by a 15-year-old, who was shot dead by police.

At least 800 heavily armed officers arrested 16 people as part of Operation Appleby in September 2014, in what was Australia's biggest ever anti-terror operation.

Police said the arrests on Thursday were not linked to a new plot, but to documents seized during those raids that talked about a plan to target government and police buildings.

"As a result of putting all of that information together, working through those documents, putting physical and electronic surveillance together, we were able to build a case of conspiracy for five people involved in the preparation of these documents," said Deputy Commissioner of National Security Michael Phelan.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan said both of the suspects arrested would face court on Thursday

Those arrested on Thursday are also known to those involved in the terror-linked shooting of Sydney police worker Curtis Cheng, police said.

Mr Cheng, 58, was shot dead outside his police headquarters office as he left work last October.

Police shot dead his attacker, 15-year-old Farhad Jabar, at the scene.

Image copyright AAP
Image caption Farhad Jabar, 15, was killed in a shootout with police on Friday after he gunned down police accountant Curtis Cheng

New South Wales Police said the 15-year-old boy arrested on Thursday was charged based on activity when he was 14.

They added that he had clearly been radicalised, although they did not yet know how it had happened.

"It is disturbing that we continue to deal with teenaged children in this environment," said Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn.

"To be putting a 15-year-old before the courts on very serious charges that carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment demonstrates the difficulties law enforcement face."

Police said a total of 11 people had now been charged under Operation Appleby.

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