TWO men were about to launch an imminent terror attack when they were arrested in a raid on a Sydney suburb, police have said.
Officers who swooped in the western Sydney suburb of Fairfield seized a home-made Islamic State-style flag, a machete and a hunting knife, raising fears of a possible beheading-style attack.
The men – aged 24 and 25 – would have carried out the attack imminently if they had not been arrested that day, New South Wales deputy police commissioner Catherine Burn said.
A video seized in the raid showed one of the men making threats, though Ms Burn refused to say exactly what was said.
Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott later told parliament the video depicted one of the suspects kneeling in front of the Islamic State (IS) flag with the knife and machete while making a statement in Arabic.
Asked whether they were planning a beheading, Ms Burn replied: “We don’t really know what act they were going to commit.
“What we are going to allege is consistent with the IS messaging. We believe the men were potentially going to harm somebody, maybe even kill somebody, and potentially using one of the items that we identified and recovered yesterday, potentially a knife.”
Police are trying to determine whether the men were in contact with anyone from IS.
“Our focus was to act on information we received about something that was imminent,” Ms Burn said. “We believe we have stopped that threat from occurring. However, there are further investigations that now we will need to follow through.”
Suspects Omar Al-Kutobi and Mohammad Kiad were charged with undertaking acts in preparation or planning for a terrorist act, which carries a maximum life sentence on conviction. Their lawyer did not apply for bail and it was formally refused during a brief court hearing yesterday. Neither man appeared in court.
Police do not believe there is any link between the alleged plot and another that prompted a series of anti-terror raids in Sydney in September. One man arrested during those raids was charged with conspiring with an IS leader in Syria to behead a random person in Sydney.
The government raised the terror warning level in September in response to the domestic threat posed by IS, which has threatened Australia in the past when its spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a message urging attacks abroad, specifically mentioning the country.
In December, Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born, self-styled cleric with a criminal history, took 18 people hostage inside a Sydney café. Among his demands was one for an IS flag to be delivered to the scene of the siege. Investigators, however, have said it does not appear he had any contact with the group.
Mr Abbott said he suspected the terror threat in Australia was only going to get worse.
“As we have seen again and again in recent times, the death cult is reaching out all around the world, including here in Australia,” he told parliament. “There are people in this country who are susceptible to these indictments to extremism and even terrorism.”