Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police have executed a major joint counter terrorism operation in Melbourne this morning, arresting three men who had allegedly been planning an ANZAC terrorism attack in the city.
More than 200 police officers were involved in the execution of seven search warrants at 3.30am in the South Eastern Metropolitan area, which resulted in the arrests, as well as another two men taken into custody.
An 18-year-old Hallam man has been charged with conspiring to commit a terrorist act, which included targeting Australian police officers, and will appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court today.
A second 18-year-old man from Hampton Park, who was also arrested for undertaking preparations for a terrorism attack, is also expected to be charged.
A third man was arrested for weapons offences and two other men were in custody assisting police with their enquiries.
It has reported that three of the five men had to be subdued with capsicum spray upon their arrest.
In a press conference held this morning, the Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police Neil Gaughan said that the men were believed to be planning an attack on an ANZAC activity in Melbourne but could not specifically identify which event was the target, but he did say that it could have occurred anytime in the next week.
Gaughan said the investigation had been ongoing since late last month and that the men, who remain in custody, are being cooperative.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton described the alleged plot as Islamic State-inspired.
“At this stage we have no information that it was a planned beheading. But there was reference to an attack on police,” he said.
“Some evidence that was collected at a couple of the scenes and some other information we have leads us to believe that this particular matter was ISIS-inspired.”
It is believed that the five men involved are individuals acting by themselves, rather than working as part of a group or religious sect.
Gaughan said the men were associates, and later clarified that they were not related by family.
Acting Commissioner Michael Phelan this afternoon confirmed that the men attended the Al Furqan Islamic study centre in South Springvale, where Abdul Numan Haider, who was shot and killed by counterterrorism police in September last year, had also attended.
“Certainly, there are links to Numan Haider… The issues are that these people have been on our radar, particularly late last month, then the investigation ramped up when it became very obvious to us that their plans were specific,” he said.
Patton rounded out his message to the public saying that the arrests should make people feel safer rather than worried, or anxious, and that the joint taskforce will continue to work together on the investigation.
“This is something the community should feel very comfortable with.. at this stage we’re comfortable that we have this threat fully contained,” Gaughan said.
“”We are quite confident that the security we have in place for all activities, not just in the next week, but in the next months, and into the future, is going to be sufficient to ensure that we have adequate safety for all members of the public.”
The taskforce are expected to continue searching several addresses in the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne.