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Australian counter-terrorism police have thwarted an attempt to bring down a plane, said the country’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Police stormed properties in several Sydney suburbs and arrested four men as Mr Turnbull said the actions were to stop “terrorist attacks in Australia”.
Security has meanwhile been stepped up at Sydney Airport since Thursday, and the measures were extended to all major international and domestic terminals around the country overnight.
“I can report that there has been a major joint counter-terrorism operation to disrupt a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane,” Mr Turnbull said.
“The operation is continuing.”
Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin said details were scant at this stage as to the planned location and timing of the attack.
“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,” he said.
“We are investigating information indicating the aviation industry was potentially a target of that attack.”
“We believe it’s Islamic-inspired terrorism,” he said, when asked if the Islamic State terror group was behind the plot.
Mr Turnbull advised travellers in Australia to arrive at airports earlier than usual – two hours before departure – to allow for extra security screening, and to minimise carry-on baggage.
Justice minister Michael Keenan said the plot was the 13th significant threat disrupted by police since Australia’s terror threat level was elevated in 2014.
Five plots have been executed.
“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,” Mr Keenan said.
The operation was carried out by the Australian Federal Police, New South Wales state police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the country’s main domestic spy agency.
The investigation could continue for days, Mr Colvin said.
Seven Network television said 40 riot squad officers wearing gas masks stormed an inner-Sydney house before an explosives team found a suspicious device.
A woman led from a raid by police with her head covered told Nine Network Television: “I love Australia.”
Deakin University security expert Greg Barton said the first plot to target aircraft in Australia, the highest aspiration of many extremists, was a “pretty big threshold moment”.
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