Australian authorities have averted an Islamist-inspired plot to take down an airplane, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced. Anti-terrorism police have raided several properties in Sydney.
Australian authorities stopped a terrorist plot to "bring down an airplane," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Sunday.
"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," he told reporters. "The operation is continuing."
Security at Sydney Airport had been stepped up since Thursday, he said, advising travelers in Australia to arrive at airports earlier than usual to allow for extra security screening.
Four men were arrested during overnight night raids on four properties in Sydney but none have yet been charged. Seven Network television reported that 40 riot squad officers wearing gas masks were part of the operation. An explosives team later found a suspicious device.
Air traffic as target
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said that intelligence agencies had received "credible information" from partner agencies about a plot involving an "improvised device" before the raids.
Colvin added there were few details on the specifics of the planned attack, but enough to take action: "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 device," Colvin said.
"We are investigating information indicating the aviation industry was potentially a target of that attack," he added.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said "The primary threat to Australia still remains lone actors, but
the events overnight remind us that there is still the ability for people to have sophisticated plots and sophisticated attacks still remain a real threat."
Keenan said the plot was the 13th disrupted by police since Australia raised its security levels in 2014. Five plots have been carried out.
Officials have grown increasingly concerned about the threat, and say they have prevented 12 domestic attacks since September 2014. About 100 people have left Australia to fight for the so-called "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq, and authorities are concerned they might commit atrocities on their return to home soil.
ss/jm (dpa, AP, AFP)