POLICE have arrested four people in connection with the death of a civilian police worker in a Sydney suburb that officials have said they believe was linked to terrorism.
New South Wales Police said more than 200 officers raided homes in western Sydney and arrested the men, aged between 16 and 22, as part of their investigation into the killing of Curtis Cheng. A fifth man was also arrested during the raids on unrelated fraud charges.
Mr Cheng, a police finance worker, was shot by an Iranian teenager while leaving work in the western Sydney suburb of Parramatta last Friday. The killer, Farhad Jabar, 15, was shot dead by police.
Officers believe the killing was politically motivated and therefore linked to terrorism, though they say Jabar’s specific motivations remain unclear and he has not been linked to any terrorist group. They also said they didn’t know whether Mr Cheng was personally targeted, or targeted more generally because he was a police employee.
Police also don’t know what the association might be between Jabar and the men who were arrested on Wednesday.
Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn declined to say what part officials believe the men arrested played in last week’s shooting beyond allegedly having knowledge of the attack. But police do not believe that Jabar acted alone.
Ms Burn said: “Today’s operation is a clear indication of our determination to actually find out who murdered Curtis Cheng and to take all necessary action that we possibly can. It’s a very, very serious concern that in the heart of our community there is attack planning that is under way and that may have led to what we saw on Friday.”
Some of the men arrested yesterday were also investigated during a massive series of counter-terrorism raids in Sydney last year, Ms Burn said.
Jabar, who was born in Iran and lived with his family in the Parramatta area, was not on officials’ radar before Mr Cheng was shot. Ms Burn acknowledged that police had no idea he was a threat, despite his alleged association with those investigated during last year’s raids. That prompted questions about whether police should have been paying closer attention to him.
Ms Burn said: “For 24 hours, seven days a week, people go and do certain things and it’s a reality of life we can’t be everywhere with everybody at every single second of the day.”
Neil Gaughan, acting deputy commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, confirmed reports that officers were working with officials in Turkey to locate Jabar’s sister, who is believed to have flown to Istanbul shortly before Mr Cheng was killed. Mr Gaughan said there is nothing to suggest she was involved in the attack.