Australia arrests 'foil army base terror plot'
Australian police say they arrested four men linked to a Somali militant group today, accusing them of planning a suicide attack on an army base and raising concerns al-Qa'ida-linked militants were seeking targets outside Africa.
The four were arrested in dawn raids on 19 properties across the southern city of Melbourne, after a seven-month investigation involving three police forces and Australia's national security agency ASIO.
Officials said Australia's terrorism warning alert would remain at medium level, where it has been since 2003, but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the arrests showed threats remained.
"The sobering element to emerge from today's development is the reminder to all Australians that the threat of terrorism is alive and well," he said in Cairns.
It is the latest high-profile terrorism case that Australian police and intelligence agencies have uncovered.
Australia's biggest terrorism trial ended in February when Muslim cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika was jailed for 15 years for leading a cell that had planned to bomb a 2005 football match in Melbourne. Altogether, 12 people were jailed over the plot.
In the latest case, the four men arrested were aged between 22 and 26 and were all Australian citizens with Somali and Lebanese backgrounds. Police said they were linked to the al Shabaab militant group..
One man, Nayaf El Sayed, 25, was officially charged with conspiring to plan or prepare a terrorist act. Police were granted extra time to question three others, Saney Aweys, Yacqub Khayre and Abdirahman Ahmed.
Sayed did not enter a plea or apply for bail, and he refused to stand for the magistrate before he was remanded in jail to reapppear in court on October 26.
"He believes he should not stand for any man except God," his counsel told the hearing.
A fifth man, in custody on other matters, was also being questioned and police have not ruled out more arrests.
Prosecutors told the Melbourne Magistrate's Court they had evidence some of the men had taken part in training in Somalia and at least one had engaged in frontline fighting in Somalia.
They said police had evidence of phone conversations, text messages and surveillance footage, including footage of one of the suspects outside the Holsworthy army base in suburban Sydney.
The court heard the men planned to seek a fatwa, or religious ruling, to support an attack on the Holsworthy army base.
While Australia has never suffered a major peacetime attack on home soil, 95 Australians have been killed in bomb attacks in Indonesia since 2002.
Al Shabaab is a hardline militant Islamist youth group that is deeply involved in violence in war-torn Somalia. It has vowed to rule the majority Muslim nation by a hardline interpretation of Islamic law, and has dug up Sufi graves, forced women to wear veils, closed down movie halls and cut off limbs for theft.
Analysts say al Shabaab, which is on the U.S State Department's terrorism list, is affiliated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network, and has recently had success recruiting from the Somali diaspora and other Muslim youths abroad.
Strategic analyst Carl Ungerer said the Australian arrests point to growing militant activity from north Africa, and proved Australia was still a prime target for militants.
"The arrests this morning clearly show that Australia remains a gold-medal target for international terrorism," Ungerer, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Reuters.
"It is clearly the case, and security intelligence agencies have believed for some time now, there is a real, increasing tempo of al-Qa'ida activity across all of north Africa, not just the horn," Ungerer said. "There is a growing concern that the next generation of terrorism is going to be north African."
Acting Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus told reporters those arrested had planned to storm a suburban Sydney military base with automatic weapons and kill those inside.
"The men's intention was to actually go into the army barracks and to kill as many soldiers as they could until they themselves were killed," he said.
Police said they had worked with international agencies over the raids, but declined to say who tipped them off.
Australia has gradually tightened anti-terrorism laws since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and has more than 1,000 military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Under Australian anti-terror laws, authorities can detain a suspect for a prolonged period of time without charge, with court approval, while they investigate a case.
Rudd said Tuesday's arrests were not linked to deadly bombings at two luxury hotels in Jakarta last month that killed three Australians.
- 2 Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
Ball pool for adults opens in London
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...
£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...
£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...