Wednesday 22 November 2017

Australia anti-terrorism police arrest two men, 'thwart imminent attack linked to Isis'

Machete, hunting knife, homemade Isis flag and video depicting man talking about carrying out attack all seized

Flashback to Sydney Siege: Cafe employee Bae Jie-un runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped the gunman
Flashback to Sydney Siege: Cafe employee Bae Jie-un runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped the gunman

Press Association

Two men were about to launch an imminent terror attack when they were arrested in a raid on a Sydney suburb, police have said.

Officers who swooped in Fairfield seized a home-made Islamic State (IS)-style flag, a machete and a hunting knife, raising fears of a possible beheading-style attack.

The men, aged 24 and 25, would have carried out the attack imminently if they had not been arrested that day, New South Wales deputy police commissioner Catherine Burn said.

A video seized in the raid showed one of the men making threats, though Ms Burn refused to say exactly what was said.

Australia's prime minister Tony Abbott later told parliament that the video depicted one of the suspects kneeling in front of the IS flag with the knife and machete while making a statement in Arabic.

Asked whether they were planning a beheading, Ms Burn replied: "We don't really know what act they were going to commit.

A blood soaked stretcher is wheeled to an ambulance after shots were fired during a cafe siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014
A blood soaked stretcher is wheeled to an ambulance after shots were fired during a cafe siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014
A injured hostage is wheeled to an ambulance after shots were fired during a cafe siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014
Police rescue personnel carry an injured woman from the Lindt cafe, where hostages are being held, at Martin Place in central Sydney December 16, 2014
A hostage (L) runs towards police officers near Lindt Cafe, at Martin Place in central Sydney. Reuters/Jason Reed
A injured hostage is carried to an ambulance after shots were fired during a cafe siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. New South Wales state police would not say what was happening inside the cafe or whether hostages were being held. But television footage shot through the cafe's windows showed several people with their arms in the air.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Police surround the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, Martin Place. (Photo by Joosep Martinson/Getty Images)
A hostage runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. New South Wales state police would not say what was happening inside the cafe or whether hostages were being held. But television footage shot through the cafe's windows showed several people with their arms in the air. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Armed tactical response police grab a hostage, right, as she flees from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
A hostage runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Armed tactical response police grab a hostage, right, as she flees from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
This image taken from video show people holding up what appeared to be a black flag with white Arabic writing on it, inside a cafe in Sydney, Australia. (AP Photo/Channel 7 vide AP Video) AUSTRALIA OUT
This image taken from video shows people holding up hands inside a cafe in Sydney, Australia Monday (AP Photo/Channel 7 vide AP Video) AUSTRALIA OUT
A hostage fleeing from a cafe under siege runs towards an armed tactical response police officer at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia, Monday. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Hands are pressed up against the window of the Lindt cafe, where hostages are being held, in this still image taken from video from Australia's Seven Network. Reuters/Reuters TV via Seven Network/Courtesy Seven Network
A black flag with white Arabic writing is held up at the window of the Lindt cafe. Photo: Reuters TV via Seven Network
A hostage runs to safety outside the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
A hostage runs to safety outside the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
This image taken from video shows a man believed to be a gunman inside a cafe in Sydney, Australia. (AP Photo/Channel 7 via AP Video) AUSTRALIA OUT
Two hostages run to safety outside the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place on December 15, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Police attend a hostage situation at Lindt Cafe in Martin Place. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Two hostages run to safety outside the Lindt Cafe. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
The escaped hostages stand behind riot police. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Two hostages run to safety outside the Lindt Cafe. Riot police watch on with weapons drawn. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Lindt Cafe, Martin Place on December 15, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Police attend a hostage situation at Lindt Cafe in Martin Place. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
A sniper sets up on Philip Street at Martin Place in Sydney. Photo: Don Arnold/Getty Images
Police confer on Philip Street near the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place. Police attend a hostage situation at Lindt Cafe in Martin Place. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Hands are pressed up against the window of the Lindt cafe, where hostages are being held. Photo: Reuters TV via Seven Network
A police officer runs across Martin Place near Lindt cafe, where hostages are being held. Photo: Reuters/David Gray.
The flag on display at the Lindt chocolate cafe in Sydney.
Police push back a member of the public who tried to get into a building located near the Lindt cafe, where hostages are being held, at Martin Place in central Sydney. Reuters/David Gray
Police push back a member of the public who tried to get into a building located near the Lindt cafe, where hostages are being held, at Martin Place in central Sydney. Reuters/David Gray
Deputy police commissioner Catherine Burn speaks to the media. Photo: Joosep Martinson/Getty Images
Armed police gather near the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Joosep Martinson/Getty Images
Construction workers gather in front of the Sydney Opera House after being evacuated. Photo: Joosep Martinson/Getty Images
Terrified people flee the scene in central Sydney. Photo: Don Arnold/Getty Images
Police secure the scene near Lindt Cafe, Martin Place, Sydney, Australia. Photo: Don Arnold/Getty Images
Deputy police commissioner Catherine Burn speaks to the media. Photo: Joosep Martinson/Getty Images
Armed police patrol the city centre in Sydney, Australia. Major landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House, have been evacuated. Photo: Joosep Martinson/Getty Images
Riot Police confer on Philip St near the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

"What we are going to allege is consistent with the IS messaging. We believe that the men were potentially going to harm somebody, maybe even kill somebody, and potentially using one of the items that we identified and recovered yesterday, potentially a knife."

Police are trying to determine whether the men were in contact with anyone from the IS.

"Yesterday, our focus was to act on information that we received about something that was imminent," Ms Burn said. "We believe that we have stopped that threat from occurring. However, there are further investigations that now we will need to follow through."

Omar Al-Kutobi and Mohammad Kiad were charged with undertaking acts in preparation or planning for a terrorist act, which carries a maximum life sentence. Their lawyer did not apply for bail and it was formally refused during a brief court hearing today. Neither man appeared in the courtroom.

Police do not believe there is any link between the alleged plot and another that prompted a series of anti-terror raids in Sydney in September. One man arrested during those raids was charged with conspiring with an IS leader in Syria to behead a random person in Sydney.

Australia's government raised the country's terror warning level in September in response to the domestic threat posed by IS, which has threatened Australia in the past when its spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a message urging attacks abroad, specifically mentioning the country.

In December, Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born, self-styled cleric with a long criminal history, took 18 people hostage inside a Sydney cafe. Among his demands was that he be delivered an IS flag. Investigators, however, have said it does not appear he had established any contact with the group.

Mr Abbott said he suspected the terror threat in Australia was going to only worsen.

"As we have seen again and again in recent times, the death cult is reaching out all around the world, including here in Australia," he told parliament. "There are people in this country who are susceptible to these indictments to extremism and even terrorism."

The government believes about 90 Australians are fighting alongside IS in Syria and Iraq, with another 140 supporting the group from home.

The proliferation of IS-style attack plots in countries such as Australia is not surprising because such plots are generally simple and low tech, which makes them harder to stop, said Clive Williams, a counter-terrorism expert at the Australian National University and a former military intelligence officer.

"To drive a car into a group of policemen takes no planning whatsoever," he said. "It's a lot different from what al Qaida was encouraging people to do, which was to do sophisticated bombings which would result in lots of casualties but took lots of preparation and organisation.

"There was a better chance of detecting them, but they were more dangerous - whereas these are less detectable but less dangerous."

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