The Australian police force has beefed up security in airports after foiling what it described as an ‘elaborate’ terrorist plot, involving a bomb being detonated on a plane.
Four men have been arrested in connection to the incident, during raids on five properties in the Sydney suburbs of Surry Hills, Lakemba, Wiley Park and Punchbowl on Saturday night, but have not yet been charged.
The Australian federal police commissioner, Andrew Colvin, said the threat was credible, adding: “We believe it’s Islamic-inspired terrorism. Exactly what is behind this is something we need to investigate fully.”
The raids around Sydney were carried out on intelligence provided by partner agencies. Mr Colvin said that the terrorist attack planned to use an ‘improvised device’ to target an Australian plane.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the plot was not a lone wolf-style attack.
“We face a range of terrorist threats, some of them are lone actors, who activate very quickly, with very little warning,” he said earlier today. “On other occasions, you get quite elaborate conspiracies. This appears to be in that category.”
The prime minister also said that Australia’s terror threat level will remain at ‘probable’, which is in the middle, between ‘possible’ and ‘expected’.
While airport security has been ramped up in the wake of the foiled plot, Commissioner Colvin said that there was no evidence that security already in place at Australian airports had be compromised.
“Terrorists are becoming very ingenious about ways to defeat our security mechanisms,” he said.
“Australia has some of the best, if not the best airport security arrangements in the world and we’re confident those measures are effective, and would have been effective, in this circumstance.”
Local Husnain Muhammad, 24, told CNN that he was worried about a backlash against Muslims in Australia after Saturday’s arrests. “Everyone will see us as terrorists and we’re not,” he said.
Just last month in Melbourne, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack at a suburban apartment, in which one man was killed and three police officers were injured.
Yacqub Khayre, a 29-year-old Somali-born Australian, killed a man before being shot dead by police in a Melbourne suburb.
He injured three police officers in a shootout in which a hostage was released. “This is for IS, this is for al-Qaida,” he reportedly told TV station Channel 7 during the siege.
Gunman Khayre, who held a woman hostage while claiming links to Islamic State, had been freed on parole just six months earlier for a series of charges including aggravated burglary and theft.