Australia tightening security as police thwart air terror plot

Police guard the passenger security check area at Sydney Airport. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
Police guard the passenger security check area at Sydney Airport. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said security had been increased at the country’s airports after police foiled a terrorist plot to bring down a plane.

Four men were arrested at the weekend following raids on homes in Sydney’s suburbs. Security measures were extended to all major international and domestic terminals around Australia overnight.

“I can report that there has been a major joint counter-terrorism operation to disrupt a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane,” Mr Turnbull said yesterday.

“The operation is continuing.”

Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin said details were scant on the specifics of the attack, the location and timing. “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,” he said.

“We are investigating information indicating the aviation industry was potentially a target of that attack.”

Mr Turnbull advised travellers in Australia to arrive at airports earlier than usual – two hours before departure – to allow for extra security screening.

Justice minister Michael Keenan said the plot was the 13th significant threat disrupted by police since Australia’s terror threat level was elevated in 2014.

Five plots have been executed.

“The primary threat to Australia still remains lone actors, but the events overnight remind us that there is still the ability for people to have sophisticated plots and sophisticated attacks still remain a real threat,” Mr Keenan said. “In light of this information, it’s very important that everyone in Australia remains vigilant.”

The operation was carried out by the Australian Federal Police, New South Wales state police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the country’s main domestic spy agency.

The investigation could continue for days, Mr Colvin added

Deakin University security expert Greg Barton said that the first plot to target aircraft in Australia, an aspiration of many extremists, was a “pretty big threshold moment”.

“We believe it’s Islamic-inspired terrorism,” he added when asked if the Islamic State terror group was behind the plot.

The plotters were apparently making a peroxide-based explosive device similar to the bomb used at in Manchester Arena attack in England on 22 May.