Over the weekend four men were arrested as a result of a joint investigation between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the New South Wales Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT). The raids were conducted as part of counter terrorism operations, and involved searches being carried out in the Sydney suburbs of Lakemba, Surry Hills, Wiley Park and Punchbowl late Saturday afternoon.
The AFP has since confirmed that the four men arrested are currently in custody pending ongoing enquiries. A magistrate granted an additional period of detention overnight in regards to this matter. The AFP has said that this recognised that terrorism investigations are inherently complex and that there can be legitimate reasons for extended periods of detention for suspects in such matters.
It has since been reported that the four men had planned to commit a terror plot that would have involved smuggling an improvised explosive device onto an international flight bound for the Middle East. Some media outlets have reported that the device may have been disguised as a kitchen meat grinder, while others allege it could have been a “non-traditional” device that would have distributed poisonous gas within the plane.
Several items were seized by police as part of the raids, including mobile phones and documents.
The thwarted plan has affected travel all around Australia, with authorities enforcing extra security measures following the threat. Travellers have been warned to arrive two hours before their domestic flight because of “additional scrutiny.” Huge queues of people were lining up in Sydney Airports domestic terminal on Monday morning, as passengers experienced lengthy delays.
The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave a statement in relation to the raids, saying that the threat of terror in Australia was “very real”- “The tight co-operation and collaboration between our intelligence and security agencies is the key to keeping Australians safe from terrorism,” he said.
Despite the fervour with which this matter has been covered, the AFP has been quick to caution against drawing any conclusions. “It should be noted that the presumption of innocence applies to these persons,” they said in a statement.