Hundreds of Australian police on Saturday arrested five teens planning an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack next week at an event to mark the centenary of the landings at Gallipoli during World War One, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.
More than 200 police were involved in a series of raids in the southern city of Melbourne in the early hours of Saturday, police said, following a month-long sting operation. Five men aged 18 and 19 were detained.
Police arrested five teenage suspects, charging one 18-year-old with conspiring to commit a terrorist act.
“There were a series of raids in metropolitan Melbourne. Five people were arrested,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters. “Two will be charged with preparing a terrorist act. “The act that we believe was in preparation involved attacks against police officers on ANZAC Day.”
Sevdet Besim, 18, has been charged with conspiring to commit a terrorist act, and was denied bail Saturday.
The other suspect, a 19-year-old, has not yet appeared in court.
“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,” said Neil Gaughan, acting deputy commissioner of the Australian Federal Police.
Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters that evidence suggested the suspects had been influenced by Islamic State.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged people to turn up to memorial events as planned.
“The best thing we can do to counter terrorism… as individuals is to lead normal lives,” he said, adding that the authorities were doing everything possible to keep people safe.
Police said that although officers were the primary target of the alleged plot there was also a threat to the public.
Search operations were continuing at several addresses in the south-east of the city on Saturday.
The premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, said the police presence at Anzac Day events would be “significantly increased”.
“These individuals arrested today are not people of faith, they don’t represent any culture,” he added.
“This is not an issue of how you pray or where you were born… this is simply evil, plain and simple.”