Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated on Sunday that security has been stepped up at Sydney Airport and all major international and domestic airports around Australia after police thwarted Australia’s first known terrorist plot to bring down an airplane.
According to Australian officials, four men have been arrested in raids on Sydney homes.
“I can report last night that there has been a major joint counterterrorism operation to disrupt a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane,” Turnbull told reporters. “The operation is continuing.”
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin attributed the plot to “Islamic-inspired” terrorism. “In recent days, law enforcement has been become aware of information that suggested some people in Sydney were planning to commit a terrorist attack using an improvised devise. We believe it’s Islamic-inspired terrorism,” he stated.
In their efforts to get a bomb through airport security screenings, the terrorists were apparently concocting a peroxide-based explosive device rather than using nitrate-based chemicals, which can be detected by swab tests, according to Deakin University security expert Greg Barton. He recalled that Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi used the same type of explosive, known as TATP, to kill 22 concert-goers in England on May 22.
Noting that this is the first time Australia has had to deal with a terror plot targeting airplanes, Barton said that this was a “pretty big threshold moment.”
He explained, “TATP’s called Mother of Satan because it often kills the bomb maker because it’s very unstable as it’s mixed. But if it’s mixed well, it can be very potent and a small amount can be enough to bring an aircraft down if it’s done very, very expertly.”
Barton continued, “The speculation is that the bombers would like to put it in carry-on luggage so they can be sure of getting it placed near the fuselage skin.”
Four suspects were arrested in five raids around Syndey, which uncovered at least one suspicious device, according to news reports. However, none of them have been charged.
A woman led from a raid by police with her head covered told Nine Network Television: “I love Australia.”
None of the four suspects arrested in five raids had been charged, Colvin said, noting that there was no evidence that airport security had been compromised and none of the suspects works in the airport industry.
Australia’s terrorist threat level remained unchanged at “probable,” according to Turnbull, advising travelers in Australia to minimize baggage and to arrive at airports at least two hours before departure to allow for extra security screening.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said that since Australia’s terrorist threat level was elevated in 2014, this was the 13th significant threat disrupted by police. Five plots have been executed, and 70 suspects have been charged in 31 police operations.
The Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. also issued a formal response to the uncovering of the terrorist plot:
— ABC News (@ABC) July 30, 2017
The video of the report in Australia can be viewed below:
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