3 held over alleged plot to 'kill the maximum number of people possible' in a crowded space in Melbourne

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  • A police surveillance operation that began in March led to the arrest of three Australians, aged between 21 and 30, this morning.
  • Police will allege they were plotting a terror attack in a crowded area in order to maximise the number of people they killed.
  • The trio, who have Turkish heritage, had their passports cancelled this year.

Victorian police have arrested three men over an alleged terrorism plot in which they would aim to “kill the maximum number of people possible” in a crowded place in Melbourne.

A joint counter-terrorism taskforce, titled Operation Donabate — involving local police, Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and other agencies — raided four properties in Melbourne’s north-west from 3am this morning, arresting the trio following several months of surveillance.

The three are Australian nationals – a 30-year-old man from Dallas, a 26-year-old man from Campbellfield, and a 21-year-old man from Greenvale – with Turkish backgrounds. Two of the men are related.

A fourth property in Coolaroo was also searched.

They’d all had their Australian passports cancelled between January and October this year after authorities suspected they were going to travel to a conflict zone.

With the exception of a 2007 conviction for not displaying L plates against one of the men, they did not have criminal histories.

The raids came on the day a state memorial service is being held for Sisto Malaspina, the Pellegrini’s co-owner killed in a stabbing attack less than a fortnight ago. It’s not yet known if there was any link to that event, in which the attacker was shot dead by police, and this plot

Police will allege the three men were involved in preparing plans a terrorist act in Melbourne. Officers believe there is now no ongoing threat.

Victorian Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said intelligence agencies had the men on their radar from early 2017, with the operation that led to today’s arrests got underway in March.

The men had tried to acquire a semi-automatic rifle in the last few days and their intentions “escalated” in the past week he said, inspired by Islamic State.

They were looking at a place where there would be large crowds for their attack, Commander Ashton said.

“Certainly, in our view, while a specific location was not finalised there was a view towards a crowded place, we allege, to kill the maximum number of people possible,” he said.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Ian McCartney said the alleged plot involved “potential significant loss of human life”.

The men are expected to appear before court today.

Police urged people to report any suspicious activity they see to triple zero (000), Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400.

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