(Reuters) - Teenagers inspired by the hardline Islamic State planned a major terrorism attack in the Australian city of Melbourne to mark the centenary next week of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli during World War One, police said on Saturday.
Five men aged 18 and 19 were detained in the city's southeast in the early hours of Saturday in a series of raids, police said, as the culmination of a month-long operation code-named Operation Rising.
Senior police officials said they were confident the threat had been contained. They gave few details of the plan, but said the initial target was police officers, referring to potential use of "edged weapons".
Acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan of the Australian Federal Police told a news conference in Melbourne that the plan targeted "ANZAC Day activity in Melbourne which included targeting police officers".
The run-up to this year's centenary has been marked by numerous television programmes about the campaign, fought against the Muslim Ottoman Empire in what is now western Turkey.
Concerns have risen in recent weeks that Islamic State militants might use the anniversary to carry out attacks on Australian targets. Around 200 police officers were involved in the raids in Melbourne, Gaughan said, and enquiries were ongoing.
Police this afternoon charged 18-year-old Hallam teenager Sevdet Besim with “conspiracy to commit acts done in preparation for, or planning, terrorist acts”, a Commonwealth offence.
Mr Besim appeared for a 30-second hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court where he was remanded in custody to reappear for a filing hearing on April 24. Dressed in a black windcheater, the bearded Besim did not bow to magistrate Alan Spillane as he was taken to the holding cells below.
(Picture from the Melbourne Herald Sun left - note the Islamic extended finger)
An 18-year-old Hampton Park man was also arrested in relation to terrorism-related offences. A third man, Lindim Sulejmani, 25, arrested in relation to alleged weapons offences, is understood to have been released from custody this afternoon.
Police said they had prevented a possible attack on serving police officers involving “associates’’ of the dead Melbourne terrorist Numan Haider.
SECURITY will be increased at Anzac Day commemorations across the state following this morning’s terror raids.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged Australians to turn out in force. “The best thing you can do in the face of those who would do us harm is to live your life normally,” Mr Abbott said. He praised the professionalism of police conducting the raids and said there were no other specific threats to Anzac Day events in other cities.
Hi, Esmerelda! SNAP!
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