Australia ar­rests 5 for al­leged IS-in­spired plot


Five Aus­tralian teenagers were ar­rested Satur­day on sus­pi­cion of plot­ting an Is­lamic State group- in­spired ter­ror­ist attack at a Vet­er­ans’ Day cer­e­mony that in­cluded tar­get­ing po­lice of­fi­cers, of­fi­cials said.

The sus­pects in­cluded two 18-year-olds who are al­leged to have been pre­par­ing an attack at the AN­ZAC Day cer­e­mony in Mel­bourne later this month, Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice Act­ing Deputy Com­mis­sioner Neil Gaughan told re­porters.

An­other 18-year-old was ar­rested on weapons charges, and two other men, aged 18 and 19, were in cus­tody and as­sist­ing po­lice. All the ar­rests took place in Mel­bourne.

AN­ZAC Day is the an­nual April 25 com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 1915 Gal­lipoli land­ings — the first ma­jor mil­i­tary ac­tion fought by the Aus­tralian and New Zealand Army Corps dur­ing World War I.

Po­lice said they be­lieve the plot was in­spired by the Is­lamic State group, also known as ISIS, and was to have in­volved “edged weapons.”

“At this stage, we have no in­for­ma­tion that it was a planned be­head­ing. But there was ref­er­ence to an attack on po­lice,” Gaughan said. “Some ev­i­dence that we have col­lected at a cou­ple of the scenes, and some other in­for­ma­tion we have, leads us to be­lieve that this par­tic­u­lar mat­ter was ISIS-in­spired.”

Australia’s gov­ern­ment has raised the coun­try’s ter­ror warn­ing level in re­sponse to the do­mes­tic threat posed by sup­port­ers of the Is­lamic State group. In Septem­ber last year, the group’s spokesman Abu Mo­hammed alAd­nani is­sued a mes­sage urg­ing at­tacks abroad, specif­i­cally men­tion­ing Australia.

‘Go about a nor­mal, peace­ful,

free and fair Aus­tralian life’

Fed­eral Po­lice Deputy Com­mis­sioner Michael Phelan said at a sep­a­rate news con­fer­ence that the teens had links to Nu­man Haider, an 18- year- old who stabbed two Mel­bourne po­lice of­fi­cers and was sub­se­quently shot dead in Septem­ber. Haider had caught au­thor­i­ties’ at­ten­tion months ear­lier over what po­lice con­sid­ered trou­bling be­hav­ior, in­clud­ing wav­ing what ap­peared to be an Is­lamic State group flag at a shop­ping mall.

Phelan said the teens ar­rest- ed Satur­day were on of­fi­cials’ radar for months, but the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ramped up when it ap­peared they were plan­ning a spe­cific attack.

“This is a new par­a­digm for po­lice,” Phelan said. “Th­ese t ypes of at­tacks t hat are planned are very rudi­men­tary and sim­ple ... All you need th­ese days is a knife, a flag and a cam­era and one can com­mit a ter­ror­ist act.”

One of the teens, Sevdet Besim, ap­peared briefly in court Satur­day on a charge of pre­par­ing for, or plan­ning, a ter­ror­ist act. He did not ap­ply for bail and was or­dered to reap­pear in court next week.

Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott has warned that the ter­ror­ism threat in Australia has es­ca­lated, with one- third of all ter­ror­ism- re­lated ar­rests since 2001 oc­cur­ring in the last six months. At least 110 Aus­tralians have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight along­side ex­trem­ists, and the na­tion’s se­cu­rity agency is jug­gling more than 400 high­pri­or­ity coun­tert­er­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tions — more than dou­ble the num­ber a year ago.

In Fe­bru­ary, two men were charged with plan­ning to launch an im­mi­nent, Is­lamic State group-in­spired ter­ror­ist attack af­ter au­thor­i­ties said they ap­peared on a video threat­en­ing to stab the kid­neys and necks of their vic­tims. In Septem­ber, a man ar­rested dur­ing a se­ries of coun­tert­er­ror­ism raids was charged with con­spir­ing with an Is­lamic State group leader in Syria to be­head a ran­dom per­son in Syd­ney.

In De­cem­ber, Man Mo­nis, an Ira­nian- born, self- styled cleric with a long crim­i­nal his­tory, took 18 peo­ple hostage in­side a Syd­ney cafe, forced them to hold up a flag bear­ing the Is­lamic dec­la­ra­tion of faith and de­manded he be de­liv­ered a flag of the Is­lamic State group. Mo­nis and two hostages were killed.

Ab­bott said the lat­est al­leged plot was at an ad­vanced stage of plan­ning, prompt­ing po­lice to swoop in. Still, he urged the public to par­tic­i­pate in AN­ZAC Day events as usual.

“The best sign of de­fi­ance we can give to those who would do us harm is to go about a nor­mal, peace­ful, free and fair Aus­tralian life,” he said. “And I say to ev­ery­one who is think­ing of go­ing to an AN­ZAC Day event, please don’t be de­terred. Turn up in the largest pos­si­ble num­bers to sup­port our coun­try.”

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