Here are the key developments:
- Police launch “Australia’s largest counter-terrorism operation”
- Targeted group planning “random acts of violence” against the public
- Omarjan Azari arrested, charged with terrorist offences and refused bail
- PM Tony Abbott said “direct exhortation” came from a senior ISIL leader
- Authorities closely monitoring behaviour amid concerns of retribution
- Key transport hubs asked to review “active shooter” plans and policies
Police have confirmed Omarjan Azari, 22, was arrested during the anti-terror raids in Sydney and has been charged with “conspiracy to commit acts in preparation for a terrorist act.”
Azari was refused bail until 30 October, after it was deemed he was at very high risk of failing to re-appear before the Court.
He is accused of conspiring with former Kings Cross bouncer Mohammad Baryalei and others to act in preparation or plan a terrorist act or acts, court documents show.
Police moved to apprehend Azari after an intercepted phone call two days ago led to allegations he had plans to “randomly execute people”.
Azari had “unusual level of fanaticism in his plan, despite knowing he was under surveillance,” Police said.
Senior ISIS links
Prime Minister Tony Abbott addressed media regarding the anti-terror raids as he prepares to depart Arnhem Land to farewell Australian troops being deployed to the Middle East.
“A major anti-terror operation was carried out in Sydney and elsewhere early this morning. I was briefed last night that this was imminent. It seems to have gone very smoothly and professionally,” he said.
“This is not just suspicion, this is intent and this is why the security agencies and police decided to act in the way they have.
“There was direct exhortation coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL.
“We are at serious risk of a terrorist attack… It’s good to see our police and security forces are one step ahead of those who wish to do us harm,” Abbott added.
Australian Federal Police and intelligence officials launched the “largest counter-terrorism operation” in Australia across a number of suburban areas in Sydney and Brisbane this morning.
Police were reportedly searching the carpark across the road from Azari’s residence, according to posts on Twitter.
Authorities say behaviour will be closely monitored on the streets of the NSW capital today with police on alert for retaliation following the raids.
The Office of Transport Security, part of the Department of Infrastructure, has requested key transport hubs review plans and policies for dealing with an “active shooter” and raise awareness among the travelling public of new security requirements.
AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin and NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione addressed the media at a press conference in Sydney this morning and confirmed 25 warrants had been executed and 15 arrests made.
Colvin said the group was planning violent acts, particularly “random acts against members of the public” and that one person has been charged with terrorism-related offences.
The individual is expected to appear in central court later today and Scipione said, “It will be very apparent what was going to happen once the facts come out in the next couple of hours.”
“What we can indicate is the violence was to be perpetrated on a member of the public on the streets,” he added.
Of the 15 people apprehended, three were said to have resisted arrest. There were 800 police officers involved in the NSW operation alone, with at least one weapon seized and multiple properties and cars raided and searched.
Scipione said NSW Police will today implement Operation Hammerhead to deal with any “trouble makers” planning to “take retribution or create trauma within our communities.”
Police were reportedly digging up the front yard of a Guildford home involved in the anti-terror raids in Sydney, according to posts on Twitter.
Police have just started digging up the front yard of this raided home at Guildford. pic.twitter.com/c97JDUEYfV
— Lucy Carter (@lucethoughts) September 18, 2014
In the early hours of Thursday morning Federal and State Police officers and officials from Australian security agency ASIO conducted raids throughout Sydney and Brisbane suburbs.
A Police helicopter hovering over the raids in Sydney has captured footage of the ground operations taking place.
The suburbs of Beecroft, Bellavista, Guildford, Merrylands, Northmead, Wentworthville, Marsfield, Westmead, Castle Hill, Revesby, Bass Hill and Regents Park were targeted in Operation Appleby.
Three search warrants were also carried out by 70 police offers in Brisbane’s south – in Upper Mount Gravatt East, Logan, and Underwood.
Police released video and photos showing heavily armed officers entering homes before dawn this morning.
Monash University’s acting Director of the Centre for Islam and the Modern World, Greg Barton told Business Insider after the federal government raised the terror threat to “high” on Friday the biggest question has been “what do authorities know about it and what are they doing about it.”
Uthman Badar of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia, a global Islamic political party, said the timing of these raids is somewhat “suspect”.
“As late as last week both the Prime Minister and outgoing ASIO boss David Irvine confirmed that there was no intelligence of any plans to carry out attacks in Australia. A few days later and we wake up to heavy-handed raids and talk of a ‘terrorist network’ planning attacks,” he said.
“The timing of these raids is suspect indeed. With the ‘anti-terror’ laws, which hit a wall in the community, to be tabled to Parliament next week and with ‘military intervention’ imminent in Iraq, these raids are very timely for the government and its propaganda campaign for the same.”