Australia’s national security authorities monitoring potential terrorist plots have reportedly picked up on “chatter” pertaining to a potential attack on Parliament House.
During an interview on breakfast television, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australian Federal Police (AFP) had taken over security at Parliament House in Canberra amid concerns of a conceivable terrorist strike in the nation’s capital.
Senior intelligence sources fear Parliament House has already been “scoped out”, with primary targets including the Prime Minister, senior political figures and ASIO officials.
Authorities have been monitoring behaviour and potential threats amid concerns of retribution following yesterday’s commencement of Operation Appleby, Australia’s largest ever counter-terrorism initiative.
In the early hours of Thursday morning Federal and State Police officers and officials from ASIO conducted raids throughout Sydney and Brisbane suburbs.
25 warrants were executed across 12 Sydney suburbs and 15 arrests made. Of those 15 people detained, nine have since been released.
Omarjan Azari, 22, was arrested during the anti-terror operations in Sydney, charged with “conspiracy to commit acts in preparation for a terrorist act” and refused bail.
A 24-year-old man from Merrylands was also apprehended and charged with possessing a prohibited weapon and ammunition without license. He received bail and will appear in Fairfield Local Court next week.
Two Sydney women were also issued Future Court Attendance Notices.
Omar Succarieh, 31, from Brisbane was arrested last week, accused of funding a Syria-based extremist group. Secret recordings allege Succarieh told his wife he planned to flee Australia to avoid arrest. Considered a flight risk, Brisbane Supreme Court denied the man’s bail application.
Abbott said counter-terrorism authorities carried out raids yesterday based on advice that an attack “could take place within days… That’s why they acted with great determination”.
Last night around 400 members of the Muslim community gathered in Lakemba, in Sydney’s west, to protest the anti-terror operations, with some demonstrators alleging excessive force and aggression were used during yesterday’s searches.
In related news, Islamic State released a video today depicting an alleged captive British freelance photojournalist. The man is seen to be dressed in the same orange jumpsuit as beheaded journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff and British aid worker, David Haines.
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
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