Family foils plot to bomb market
VICTORIA Police say there is no specific threat to Melbourne, after revelations a terrorist plot to blow up Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market was foiled by members of a British family who pretended to be a willing recruit.
A man, who claimed to be part of an overseas terrorist network, sent encrypted texts and voice files with instructions on how to set off a bomb at the market to the “recruit” over five months.
But the recruit was actually a British-based family of “amateur jihadi hunters” and the correspondence was forwarded to the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police, News Corp reported yesterday.
Assistant Commissioner Ross Guenther, who heads the counter-terrorism unit, said police were made aware of the communications early this year, but concluded there was no specific threat.
“We take any reports of threats to infrastructure and people in Melbourne very seriously,” Asst Commissioner Guenther told Melbourne radio 3AW.
“We’re more than satisfied I have to say and I want to be really clear about that, there was no clear plot against anywhere in the city of Melbourne.”
The plot apparently involved making a car bomb and driving it at a crowded corner of the market.
Mr Guenther said the market was one of several Melbourne icons mentioned in the communications, with others including the court precinct and Federation Square.
“We’re very satisfied ... this plot was not viable,” he said.
The conversations, which in this case were between a person of interest in the Middle East and someone in the UK, were not unusual, he said.
“These conversations go on across jihadi networks on a very, very regular basis,” he said.
“We’re very good at monitoring such communications and intervene when we need to.”
Mr Guenther said the force would boost its presence this weekend at the market, Federation Square and the AFL, to reassure the community.
He said the terror risk posed remained constant and had not changed in the past two to three years.
“I’m very confident there’s no specific threat,” he said.
“That’s why we actively monitor about 200 persons of interest in this state and we look at the communications they conduct between themselves and offshore entities, and we do that obviously to offer the best protection. If you look back to 2015 to now, you see we’ve been very successful in disrupting similar plots.”