Police yesterday made four arrests after uncovering a plot to launch a suicide attack on an Australian army base.
The men, who are reported to have associations with the Somali-based terrorist movement al-Shabaab – which has links to al-Qa’ida – are said to have been in the advanced stages of planning an attack on the Holsworthy barracks on the outskirts of Sydney.
More than 400 officers from Victoria Police, New South Wales Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation – the country’s equivalent of MI5 – swooped on 19 addresses across Melbourne at 4.30am local time, arresting the four men aged between 22 and 26.
Australian Federal Police Acting Commissioner Tony Negus said last night: “This operation has disrupted an alleged attack that could have claimed many lives. If this attack had been carried out it would have been the most serious terrorist attack on Australian soil.”
He confirmed that the raids involved a suspected terrorist cell of Australian nationals of Somali and Lebanese backgrounds, and that the men arrested are alleged to have been involved in insurgent activities in Somalia.
Police believe that the men intended to launch an attack with automatic weapons, killing as many people as they could before they themselves died, and that they had returned to Somalia to receive training.
Members of the group had been observed carrying out surveillance at the base and other suspicious activity around defence bases in Victoria Victoria Police Commissioner Simon Overland expressed disappointment that details of the planned raids appeared in The Australian newspaper some three hours before they took place.