Christmas Day terror attack foiled by police raids
TERRORISTS planned a Christmas Day bomb attack targeting Melbourne landmarks including Federation Square and Flinders Street Station, police claim.
The AFP has warned that this plot was among the most concerning, given how far the planning had progressed.
Five male suspects aged between 20 and 25 are expected to appear in court today charged with acts in preparation of a terrorist event. They are believed to have been inspired by the Islamic State, police said. Four are Australian-born, with one born in Egypt.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull publicly thanked the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police and ASIO officers for their work in stopping the attack.
"Our police and intelligence services keep up safe because citizens keep them informed," he said.
"it is up to all of us to keep our eyes open.
"So, I want to thank, again, the men and women of the AFP, the Victoria Police, and ASIO.
"And I want to thank all the men and women who serve in the Australian Defence Force and in our police and security agencies, our emergency services, keeping us safe every day and every night of the year."
The Prime Minister said those involved were "self-radicalised" -- that is, they have been inspired by IS.
Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin said he felt police have now "removed the bulk of this particular cell".
When asked about the sophistication of the attack, Commissioner Colvin said this was a particularly frightening plan.
"Well, in terms of events that we have seen over the past few years in Australia, this certainly concerns me more than any other event that I've seen," he said.
"They had moved very quickly from an intention to a capability, and developed capability, including quite progressed plans, we will allege.
"Now, we've heard about Federation Square, we've heard about the Flinders Street Train Station and St Paul's Cathedral.
"We believe that they were narrowing down exactly what their plan was, but that's all in one very small part of Melbourne's CBD.
Australia has suffered four terror attacks on its soil since 2014, according to Justice Minister Michael Keenan.
This foiled attempt is the 12th of its kind that authorities have disrupted before it could strike the innocent.
The Minister described it as "amongst the most serious in terms of its intent, and in terms of the capability of the people who have been disrupted".
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said there will be extra police on the streets on Christmas Day.
A major multi-agency operation between Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police and ASIO foiled the alleged plot, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said in a press conference this morning.
"We believe that there was an intention to conduct what we call a multimode attack, possibly on Christmas Day," he said.
"The possible locations that we have been working on have been Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and St Paul's Cathedral.
"We've gained evidence that we believe is of a reconnaissance mission being conducted at that site. We believe there was an intention to attack in relation to that area, most likely on Christmas Day."
He said police carried out five search warrants overnight, with seven arrests made. Five of those suspects, described as "self-radicalised", remain in custody.
"We've had an investigation that's been running now for couple of weeks," he said.
"The individuals involved in this matter, the subject of that investigation, have been persons of interest for Victoria Police and intelligence agencies now for some period of time. They have been people we have been concerned about.
"Over the last fortnight that has accelerated to where we have had to conduct a criminal investigation relating to the formation of what we believe was a terrorist plot. As a result of the investigation, we believe we have neutralised that threat."
Police raided a number of properties across Melbourne's northwest overnight.
Search warrants were executed across Flemington, Meadow Heights, Dallas, Campbellfield and Gladstone Park.