SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s largest ever counter-terrorism raids on Thursday detained 15 people and disrupted plans to “commit violent acts”, including against random members of the public that reportedly involved a beheading on camera.
A major pre-dawn operation was carried out across Sydney and Brisbane by more than 800 officers. Some 25 search warrants were executed with one person so far charged with serious terrorism-related offences. He was to appear in court later in the day.
At least one gun was seized.
The operation, which spanned multiple suburbs, came barely a week after Australia raised the terror threat level to “high” for the first time in a decade on growing concern about militants returning from fighting in Iraq and Syria.
Asked if those held were related to the Islamic State members who have been cutting a path through Iraq and Syria, police said the full details would emerge during court appearances.
An officer walks toward a house during a raid in the Guildford area of Sydney on September 18. Australia’s largest ever counter-terrorism raids on Thursday detained 15 people and disrupted plans to ‘commit violent acts’, including against random members of the public that reportedly involved a beheading on camera – AFP
“Police believe that this group that we have executed this operation on today had the intention and had started to carry out planning to commit violent acts here in Australia,” federal police chief Andrew Colvin said.
“Those violent acts particularly related to random acts against members of the public.”
This prompted comparisons to the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby, who was hacked to death in a random attack on a street in England last year by two Muslim converts.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said court documents were expected to reveal that the plan involved snatching a random member of the public in Sydney, draping them in an Islamic State flag and beheading them on camera.
Asked whether this was the case, Colvin replied, “That allegation will relate to serious violence on a random member of the public here on the streets of NSW (the state of New South Wales).