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Australia Arrests 5 for IS Terror Plot 04/18 12:13

   SYDNEY (AP) -- Five Australian teenagers were arrested Saturday on suspicion 
of plotting an Islamic State group-inspired terrorist attack at a Veterans' Day 
ceremony that included targeting police officers, officials said.

   The suspects included two 18-year-olds who are alleged to have been 
preparing an attack at the ANZAC Day ceremony in Melbourne later this month, 
Australian Federal Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan told 
reporters.

   Another 18-year-old was arrested on weapons charges, and two other men, aged 
18 and 19, were in custody and assisting police. All the arrests took place in 
Melbourne.

   ANZAC Day is the annual April 25 commemoration of the 1915 Gallipoli 
landings --- the first major military action fought by the Australian and New 
Zealand Army Corps during World War I.

   Police said they believe the plot was inspired by the Islamic State group, 
also known as ISIS, and was to have involved "edged weapons."

   "At this stage, we have no information that it was a planned beheading. But 
there was reference to an attack on police," Gaughan said. "Some evidence that 
we have collected at a couple of the scenes, and some other information we 
have, leads us to believe that this particular matter was ISIS-inspired."

   Australia's government has raised the country's terror warning level in 
response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group. 
In September last year, the group's spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a 
message urging attacks abroad, specifically mentioning Australia.

   Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan said at a separate news 
conference that the teens had links to Numan Haider, an 18-year-old who stabbed 
two Melbourne police officers and was subsequently shot dead in September. 
Haider had caught authorities' attention months earlier over what police 
considered troubling behavior, including waving what appeared to be an Islamic 
State group flag at a shopping mall.

   Phelan said the teens arrested Saturday were on officials' radar for months, 
but the investigation was ramped up when it appeared they were planning a 
specific attack.

   "This is a new paradigm for police," Phelan said. "These types of attacks 
that are planned are very rudimentary and simple. ... All you need these days 
is a knife, a flag and a camera and one can commit a terrorist act."

   One of the teens, Sevdet Besim, appeared briefly in court Saturday on a 
charge of preparing for, or planning, a terrorist act. He did not apply for 
bail and was ordered to reappear in court next week.

   Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned that the terrorism threat in Australia 
has escalated, with one-third of all terrorism-related arrests since 2001 
occurring in the last six months. At least 110 Australians have gone to Iraq 
and Syria to fight alongside extremists, and the nation's security agency is 
juggling more than 400 high-priority counterterrorism investigations --- more 
than double the number a year ago.

   In February, two men were charged with planning to launch an imminent, 
Islamic State group-inspired terrorist attack after authorities said they 
appeared on a video threatening to stab the kidneys and necks of their victims. 
In September, a man arrested during a series of counterterrorism raids was 
charged with conspiring with an Islamic State group leader in Syria to behead a 
random person in Sydney.

   In December, Man Monis, an Iranian-born, self-styled cleric with a long 
criminal history, took 18 people hostage inside a Sydney cafe, forced them to 
hold up a flag bearing the Islamic declaration of faith and demanded he be 
delivered a flag of the Islamic State group. Monis and two hostages were killed.

   Abbott said the latest alleged plot was at an advanced stage of planning, 
prompting police to swoop in. Still, he urged the public to participate in 
ANZAC Day events as usual.

   "The best sign of defiance we can give to those who would do us harm is to 
go about a normal, peaceful, free and fair Australian life," he said. "And I 
say to everyone who is thinking of going to an ANZAC Day event, please don't be 
deterred. Turn up in the largest possible numbers to support our country."


(KA)


 
 
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