Aussie cops foil holiday terror plot
Five men ‘inspired by Islamic State group’ planned series of Christmas Day attacks
Police in Australia have detained five men suspected of planning a series of Christmas Day attacks using knives, guns and explosives in the heart of the country’s second-largest city, officials said on Friday.
According to Victoria state police chief commissioner Graham Ashton, the suspects “were inspired by the Islamic State group” and planned attacks on Melbourne’s iconic Flinders Street train station, Federation Square, a fashionable bar and restaurant precinct, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, an Anglican church,
Ashton said they had been plotting the attack for three weeks.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was one of the most substantial plots to be disrupted over the past several years in Australia.
The arrests came in the wake of an attack in Berlin, Germany, on Monday that left 12 people dead when a truck smashed into a Christmas market.
A manhunt is underway for the person behind that attack, which ramped up security measures around the world.
Two of seven people initially arrested in raids on Thursday night and Friday morning in Melbourne — a 26-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman — were released without being charged, police said.
Five men between the ages of 21 and 26 remained in custody. Three appeared in a Melbourne court charged with preparing or planning a terrorist attack.
They each face a life sentence if convicted.
Hamza Abbas, 21, Ahmed Mohamed, 24, and Abdullah Chaarani, 26, did not enter pleas or apply for bail. They will appear in court next on April 28.
Police said the other two detainees will also be charged with preparing a terrorist attack.
Four of the suspects were born in Australia and the fifth was Egyptian-born with Egyptian and Australian citizenship.
The suspects were preparing to use knives, guns and explosives, Ashton said.
Police believed the threat had been neutralized through the raids on five Melbourne premises, he said.
“Terrorism is a global challenge that affects us all. But we must not be cowed by the terrorists,” Turnbull said.
“We will continue to go about our lives as we always have. What these criminals seek to do is to kill. But they also seek to frighten us, to cow us into abandoning our Australian way of life.”
Since Australia’s terrorist threat level was elevated in September 2014, the govern-
The suspect of Monday’s terror attack at a Christmas market in Germany’s capital was shot dead in a neighborhood of Milan on Friday, local media reported.
Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minniti has confirmed the news, saying the person killed, “without a shadow of a doubt” is Anis Amri, the suspect of the latest terror attack in Berlin.
Amri was killed during an exchange of fire with police near a train station in the Sesto San Giovanni neighborhood early Friday.
According to the anti-ter-
ment said there have been four extremist attacks and 12 plots foiled by police.
Federal police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the plotters had moved very quickly from a plan to develop a capability to attack.
“In terms of what we have seen over the past few years in Australia, this certainly concerns me more than any other event I’ve seen,” Colvin said.
“We believe that we have removed the bulk of this particular cell, this group.”
Extra police are now on patrol in Melbourne.
Police search a house in Melbourne on Friday after uncovering a plot for Christmas Day terror attacks in the city.