SYDNEY: A “significant” Islamic State-inspired Christmas Day terror plot targeting central Melbourne has been foiled after a series of arrests in raids across the city, police said Friday.
Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton said those detained planned to use explosives, knives and guns to attack busy locations including Melbourne’s Flinders Street train station, Federation Square and St Paul’s Cathedral.
“Over the last fortnight…we have had to conduct a criminal investigation relating to the formation of what we believe was a terrorist plot,” he told a news conference.
“The attack…we believe was going to involve an explosive event, the use of explosives, and we gathered evidence to support that.”
The targets of the alleged attack are all in the same area in the heart of the city, and only a short distance from the Melbourne Cricket Ground where up to 100,000 people are expected to attend the Boxing Day Test between Australia and Pakistan.
Of the seven arrested on Friday morning, five remain in custody. All had been under surveillance for weeks.
Ashton said four of them were Australian-born, of Lebanese background, with the fifth an Egyptian-born Australian citizen, all in their 20s.
“Certainly these are self-radicalized, we believe, but inspired by ISIS and ISIS propaganda,” he added, referring to the jihadist Islamic State group.