Melbourne Joint Counter Terrorism Team has successfully stopped a group of young Victorians from carrying out terrorist attacks only days before they planned to harm Australians during ANZAC Day events.
According to Acting Deputy Commissioner of Victoria Police Neil Gaughan, police were the main target of the planned ISIS-inspired attacks.
Authorities confirmed the five men arrested from Narre Warren, Hampton Park, Hallam and Eumemmerring were ‘associates’ but they are ‘not related through family’. The joint operation started from around 3:30 am on April 18, Saturday.
Speaking at a press conference organised on April 18, police said the arrests are the culmination of investigations that were ongoing since last month indicating how security agencies in Australia are working round the clock since the Abbott government heightened terror threat level last September.
The National Terrorism Public Alert System identifies four levels of risks to Australia:
- low—terrorist attack is not expected
- medium—terrorist attack could occur
- high—terrorist attack is likely
- extreme—terrorist attack is imminent or has occurred.
Around 200 police swooped on 7 properties across Melbourne during the operation and detained the five men. “Operation Rising has resulted in the execution of seven search warrants in the South Eastern Metropolitan area and the arrest of five men,” Victoria Police said.
An 18-year-old Hallam man and an 18-year-old Hampton Park man were arrested on terrorism-related offences.
A third man, an 18-year-old from Narre Warren, was also arrested in relation to weapons offences while two others, an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old both from Narre Warren, are assisting police with enquiries and remain in custody. Two of the suspects sustained ‘injuries’ during the arrest process.
In the wake of these latest terrorist-related events, authorities emphasised on the need to identify young men and young women involved in extremist activities.
Victoria Police encouraged people to continue with their programmes during ANZAC Day commemorations but urged to remain vigilant.
“It was important for us to act early on a serious threat to our community. Safety should always be the priority and today we have acted swiftly to disrupt an attack intended to bring harm to everyday Victorians going about their business,” Victoria Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said.
“We make no apologies for undertaking pre-emptive action to prevent violent and unprovoked attacks from taking place,” acting Deputy Commissioner Gaughan said.