Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that police have stopped a terrorist plot in Melbourne, originally set to be carried out on Christmas Day. Seven suspects in total were arrested. They are being charged with creating explosive devices and plotting to attack the city in the name of ISIS.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said police seized “the makings of an improvised explosive device” on Thursday. “Over the last fortnight … we have had to conduct a criminal investigation relating to the formation of what we believe was a terrorist plot,” Ashton told the press.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews described the ISIS-inspired plot as an “act of evil,” and Prime Minister Turnbull released a formal statement following the detainment of the seven conspirators:
“Overnight our police and security agencies have disrupted a very substantial terrorist plot. Overnight, the Victoria Police, working with the Australian Federal Police and ASIO, have arrested seven persons, five of whom are still in custody, searched five premises and are continuing to search them.
What they have uncovered is a plot to explode improvised explosive devices in central Melbourne in the area of Federation Square, on or about Christmas Day… This is one of the most substantial terrorist plots that have been disrupted over the last several years.”
Locations believed to be targeted include Federation Square, Flinders Street Station, and St Paul’s Cathedral, according to Ashton and police officials. Ashton also believes that a higher number of people were going to carry out the attack not only with the explosives, but with other weapons as well:
“We believe [the plot] was going to involve an explosive event, the use of explosives, and we gathered evidence to support that. There has also been evidence that we will lead around the possibility of an intention to use other weapons. That could include knives and/or a firearm. Certainly these [people] are self-radicalized, we believe, but inspired by ISIS and ISIS propaganda.”
Commissioner Ashton also revealed four of the five primary suspects were Australian-born with Lebanese backgrounds. Two suspects so far have been cleared. “The age groups range between 20 and 24 or 25. There is another suspect in this matter who will be charged that was an Egyptian-born Australian citizen. All the others were Australian-born,” he said.
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