SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian counter-terrorism police said on Wednesday they had thwarted an imminent attack linked to the Islamic State militant group after arresting two men in Sydney a day earlier.
Australia has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown Islamist radicals. It raised its national terror threat level to “high” for the first time in September, when hundreds of police conducted raids after receiving information that a radical group planned to conduct a public beheading.
Police said the men arrested after a raid on a home in a western Sydney suburb on Tuesday had been charged with planning a terrorist act.
“When we did the search of the premises, a number of items were located, including a machete, a hunting knife, a home-made flag representing the prescribed terrorist organisation IS, and also a video which depicted a man talking about carrying out an attack,” New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters.
“We will allege that both of these men were preparing to do this act yesterday.”
The men were not known to police, she added.
In December, two hostages were killed when policed stormed a central Sydney cafe to end a 17-hour siege. The gunman, Man Haron Monis, a self-styled sheik who harboured deep grievances against the Australian government and sought to align himself with the Islamic State group, was also killed.
Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its action against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, believes at least 70 citizens were fighting in the region, backed by about 100 Australia-based “facilitators”.
Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Dean Yates and Paul Tait