POLICE arrested a 17-year-old and accused him of plotting to detonate three homemade bombs in the Australian city of Melbourne, officials said yesterday in the latest terrorism scare involving a teenager.
The teenage boy was arrested on Friday afternoon in a joint federal-state police counter-terrorism operation at his home in the suburb of Greenvale, where the explosive devices were found, Australian federal police deputy commissioner Mike Phelan said.
The state police bomb squad rendered the devices safe, he added. Heavily armed officers made the raid after a tip-off to a security hotline.
Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city and is the capital of Victoria state.
Last month, five Australian teenagers were arrested on suspicion of plotting an Islamic State group-inspired terrorist attack at a Veterans’ Day ceremony also in Melbourne that included targeting police.
Phelan said that the arrest is a sobering reminder to all parents of the importance of being more engaged with their children.
“It’s deeply troubling to police that such young people in our community are becoming disaffected in the way in which they are and considering endangering the lives of many Australians,” he said.
There were “no links at all” between the latest suspect and those arrested last month, Phelan added. Police were investigating whether the latest plot had been inspired by the Islamic State group.
Phelan said he could not confirm a report that the plot would have targeted a charity run in Melbourne today to mark Mothers’ Day in Australia. He added that police were examining evidence and going through intelligence reports to get the full picture.
“But let me tell you, something was going to happen,” Phelan added. “Had we not intervened, there was a real threat of action being taken.”
The suspect will appear in the Melbourne Children’s Court tomorrow on terrorism charges. His identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons. The charges include “preparation for a terrorist act” and possessing “things connected with a terrorist act”.
Police had contained the plot and there was no further threat from the suspect or his colleagues to the people of Victoria, Phelan said.
Prime minister Tony Abbott said he had been briefed that the bomb plot had been in a “reasonably advanced state of preparation”.
Abbott urged Australians to keep the terrorist danger in perspective and to avoid changing their way of life.
“The best thing that you can do right now is to live your life normally because the whole point of terrorism is to scare us out of being ourselves,” Abbott said.
The teenager was driving from his home with a woman when he was stopped by police, Victoria police deputy commissioner Bob Hill said. Police then ordered three occupants of the house to come outside, he said. It was reported they came out with their hands up.
The boy’s father is reportedly a doctor of Syrian background. The family was unaware that bombs were stored in their two-story home.
Hill said: “His family are a caring, loving family that are now very, very distraught as a consequence of what is alleged.”
Phelan described the homemade bombs as “very rudimentary”. Their destructive capacity had yet to be assessed.
Last month, the authorities in Melbourne said they had uncovered a plot to behead a police officer. Two teenagers were charged with conspiring to plan a terrorist attack.
In December last year, a lone attacker held 18 people hostage in a Sydney café, killing one of them. The gunman, Man Haron Monis, was killed after the police stormed the café, with another hostage being killed by a bullet ricochet.