Counter-terrorism police in Australia disrupted a suspected terrorist plot to being down an aeroplane and have made four arrests in several Sydney suburbs, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Sunday.
Investigators in the operation, which was carried out by the Australian Federal Police, the New South Wales state police and the ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organization – the country’s main domestic spy agency) say they seized materials during the raids that could have been used to make an improvised explosive device.
There has been an increase in security at Sydney airport since Thursday and it was extended to all major domestic and international airports in Australia overnight because of the plot.
“I can report last night that there has been a major joint counter-terrorism operation to disrupt a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane. The operation is continuing,” Turnbull told reporters on Sunday.
The raids were conducted across the Sydney suburbs of Surry Hills, Lakemba, Punchbowl and Wiley Park overnight, with searches expected to take many more hours or days. The arrested four are in police custody without any charge.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the plot was the 13th significant threat disrupted by police since Australia’s terrorist threat level was elevated in 2014. The national terrorism threat level remains at ‘probable’.
40 riot squad officers wearing gas masks stormed a Surry Hills terrace house before an explosives team found a suspicious device, Seven Network television reported.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the four men arrested were allegedly linked to a Islamist-inspired plot but exactly what was the core behind this is yet to be fully investigated.
“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,” Colvin said.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Nick Fuller has advised Sydneysiders to go on about their daily business and not to be too alarmed by these events. There was no specific reason for them to sit at home he added.