PM Abbott says NSW Police saved the nation from third brush with terrorism

Australian counter-terrorism police said today they had thwarted an imminent attack linked to Islamic State after arresting two men in Sydney on Tuesday. Police seized knives, a home-made flag associated with the militant group and a video which depicted a man talking about carrying out an attack.

New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn said police believe the men arrested on Tuesday were preparing to carry out an attack that day. “We believe that the men were potentially going to harm somebody – maybe even kill somebody”

The video found in the raided home “depicted a man talking about carrying out an attack”, said DC Burn, adding that the arrests were “indicative of the threat” the security agencies now have to deal with.

No details have been given of the alleged plot, but she said the threat was “consistent with the messaging coming out of IS”.

NSW police

NSW police deputy commissioner Catherine Burn and Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Michael Phelan face the media.

Police said the men, aged 24 and 25, were arrested after a raid on a home in a western Sydney suburb yesterday and had been charged with planning a terrorist act.

The pair, named in court documents as Omar Al-Kutobi and Mohammad Kiad, were not previously known by police and counter-terrorism officers were only aware of them when they received information on Tuesday, forcing them to act immediately, she said.

“When we did the search of the premises, a number of items were located, including a machete, a hunting knife, a home-made flag representing the proscribed terrorist organisation IS, and also a video w,” NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird urged vigilance and said the alleged plot was “beyond disturbing”.

PM Abbott says counterterrorism agencies thwarted “an imminent attack” against Australians

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott - AP File

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott – AP File

“This country has already had two brushes with terrorism,’’ Mr Abbott told parliament today following the arrest this morning of two men during terror raids in Sydney.

“There was the attack on police officers in Victoria in September, and then we had the terrorist incident in Martin Place in December. We could easily have had a third but for strong action by NSW Police and the joint counterterrorist team.’’

“This was an imminent attack in Australia inspired by the ISIL or Daesh death cult.”

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan said the current terror threat was a new paradigm for police and security agencies.

“These types of matters come upon us very quickly,” he said. “Police forces, whether they be State or federal or our intelligence services v to be nimble to adjust to the threat and work out what our tactics are.” He reassured the community authorities would act as soon as possible.

Australia, which has joined the coalition fighting IS in Iraq, raised its domestic terror alert last year.

The move was a response to growing concern over the impact of militant conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

Sydney is also on alert after the siege at a cafe in the city in December which left two hostages and the gunman dead.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the latest arrests were a sign that the IS “death cult” was .

In October, Australia joined the US-led military action against IS in Iraq, with Mr Abbott saying IS was a “death cult” that must be stopped. But critics say this has increased the risk of attacks on Australian soil.

The Australian government believes at least 60 Australians are fighting with terror groups in the Middle East and at least 100 are actively supporting them from home.

December’s siege at the Sydney cafe was carried out by a man known to have extremist Islamist views, who made hostages hold up a black Islamist flag. But investigators do not believe he had links to IS or other militant groups.