All photos in this article courtesy of: The Daily Telegraph
Muslim Terrorists Were Planning to Carry Out
‘..Mass Casualty Shootings and Beheadings..’
by, Simon Benson & Matthew Benns | The Daily Telegraph | h/t F/j
Pre-dawn operation in Sydney and Brisbane involving 600 officers
15 people arrested, one charged
Suspected terrorist cell was ‘close to an attack’
Scipione: ‘intended to hurt random member of public’
Tony Abbott says orders coming from local senior member of ISIL
Hundreds of ASIO and heavily armed police officers swooped in anti-terrorism raids to prevent a mass casualty shooting in Sydney and possible beheadings.
Police backed up by armoured cars arrested dozens of people in a dozen separate pre-dawn operations across NSW and Brisbane.
The combined effort amounted to the largest anti-terrorism operation in Australian history — and senior officers revealed the attack by a suspected terrorist cell was imminent.
It is believed the plan was to kidnap a random member of the public and murder them by beheading, while filming the act to post on social media.
It is also understood the group had planned to target a tourist, possibly in Martin Place in the CBD.
Video courtesy of: Wrath of Khan
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said intelligence showed there were orders coming from an Australian who is senior in ISIL or Islamic State.
He said this morning the planned attacks were “not about people’s religion”.
“These people do not hate us for what we do, they hate us for who we are and how we live … That is what makes us a target,” Mr Abbott said.
“We have got to guard against terror attacks in Australia … and that’s exactly what our security forces have done today.”
Mr Abbott said he was briefed on the raids last night and that they went “smoothly” and “professionally”.
He said he would be going to the air force base to farewell armed forces travelling to the Middle East today.
Police have arrested at least 15 people during the raids and one has been charged with “terrorism-related offences”.
The charged man has been named as Omarjan Azari, who will face court today.
The AFP does not believe the raids in Queensland are directly linked to those in NSW, but are investigating links.
Australian Federal Police Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin said this morning the anti-terror operation, dubbed Operation Hammerhead, started earlier this year and “the decision was made by the experts that now was the time to move”.
Meanwhile, controversial Liberal Senator Cory Bernadi has this morning stood by a controversial tweet linking Australia’s biggest terror raids with the burqa.
Mr Bernadi was commenting on the largest terror raids in Australia’s history when he appeared to call for the head dress to be banned: “Note burqa wearers in some of the houses raided this morning? This shroud of oppression and flag of fundamentalism is not right in Aust.”
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the group intended to target random members of the public on Sydney streets.
“The intent was to commit serious violence on a member of the public on the streets,” he said.
“We won’t be letting that happen … We will not be tolerating misbehaviour on our streets.”
Mr Scipione said this morning’s operation involved more than 500 police officers and would be ongoing.
He said they have seized “at least one weapon” during the raids.
Meanwhile, a Facebook page has been launched this morning calling on Muslims to attend a “snap protest” at Lakemba station tonight.
The page has invited 1500 people to attend to “stand as one tonight” to “denounce this demonisation and oppression of Muslims”.
The protest meeting will start at 7pm.
ABC is reporting a man involved in this morning’s raids has been taken to hospital with injuries he claims he received from police.
The arrests follow the execution of a number of search warrants in Beecroft, Bellavista, Guildford, Merrylands, Northmead, Wentworthville, Marsfield, Westmead, Castle Hill, Revesby, Bass Hill and Regents Park.
Guilford residents woke to the sound of a helicopter overhead and heavily armed police calling through a loud speaker: “Your house is surrounded with armed police.”
The esidents have described their horror at the arrest of an alleged terrorist in Bursill Street Guildford before dawn.
One woman who wished not to be named said she was woken by the sound of a helicopter and her dog barking about 4.20am.
She said she heard police say five times over a loud speaker: “ You have to come to your front door, your house is surrounded with armed police.”
“It still took them a long time to come out,” she said.
Another woman, who wished not to be named, said the people moved in only two weeks ago, but she had not seen them.
Neighbour, Hassan Albatat, a Shia Muslim who emigrated from Iraq 12 years ago, was horrified by the allegations that his neighbours were involved in a terrorist plot.
“Some people are crazy,” he said.
“I come here to Australia to live to be safe, not in a dangerous way.”
Federal and NSW police continue to search the home.
One man was arrested at the Bursill Street address soon after police raided the home before dawn.
Another man with grazes to his forehead and left cheek walked free about 9.45am.
The man ran from the media’s cameras calling out: “come here and do it.”
Two women, including one whose face is hidden behind a head-to-toe niqab, remain in the house.
Detectives have brought cards and counted cash on the porch of the house.
Other items have been taken behind the closed roller doors of the garage.
Eyewitness Chris from Chester Hill told Triple M he looked out of his window at 5am and “saw 30 or 40 coppers” in the street.
“They had blocked off the road, it was only six doors down. It was pretty surreal,” he said.
The raids are linked to an earlier raid on an Islamic bookshop in Brisbane last week, where two men were arrested and charged with recruiting and funding people to travel to Syria to engage in hostile acts.
Warrants are also being executed in the Brisbane suburbs of Mount Gravatt East, Logan and Underwood.
Police sources said that raids, which involved more than 600 officers from the Australian Federal Police, NSW counter terrorism unit and ASIO, were ordered because it was understood a terrorist network had been planning to carry out a series of attacks in Australia.
The raids follow the lifting of the national security alert level from medium to high last Friday by the outgoing director general of ASIO David Irvine. Commuters on the Manly ferry this morning were reminded to take their bags with them because of the heightened security level.
It is believed the size of the raid eclipsed that of Operation Pendennis in 2005 when several hundred ASIO, AFP and NSW police arrested 13 men across Melbourne and the Sydney suburb of Bankstown, who had been planning bomb attacks in both capitals.
Australians have travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State with two of the most notorious, Mohamed Elomar and Khaled Sharrouf, posting pictures of themselves holding up the severed heads of Syrian soldiers.
In Marsfield, female forensics officers clad in hijabs joined the raids at a number of addresses.
They are focusing on a number of garages and vehicles and a short time ago took fingerprint swabs from a white Toyota Hilux ute.
Residents say they pounced on Waterloo Road early this morning and were assisted from the air by police helicopters around 5:30am.
Officials are focusing on a property along the street and it is understood a number of forensic tests have been performed.
Albert, a taxi driver, said the property houses a number of men who wear “long white gentlemen’s hijabs” and sport beards.
“They are often walking along the street very early, like 5am,” Albert said.
They are receiving support from others in Australia. Yesterday the Lakemba money transfer business Bisotel Rieh, which is owned by Sharrouf’s sister Damour and her husband Ahmed Alwash, was suspended amid concerns that it was sending millions of dollars to terrorists in the Middle East.
Australia has vowed to fight the Islamic State. Later today Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Labor leader Bill Shorten will meet at Amberley RAAF Base, 40 kilometres southwest of Brisbane, to farewell air force personnel being deployed to the United Arab Emirates.
Some of the 600 Australian troops to be deployed to Iraq left Sydney on Tuesday.
President Barrack Obama told troops at MacDill air force Base in Florida that Australia was part of a coalition joining forces to target ISIS. “We’re going to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.”
“But — and this is something I want to emphasise — this is not and won’t be America’s fight alone.”
He said Australia and Canada were sending military advisers to Iraq, France and the UK were flying missions, Saudi Arabia was hosting training programs for Syrian rebels and German paratroops were providing training.
Senior government ministers were unable to shed more light on the raids in Sydney and Brisbane, but praised the work of authorities.
“I note the security agencies, the Police, ASIO are working hard to ensure that we are safe,” Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull told ABC radio this morning.
“Our security is the consequence of continued vigilance and hard work on the part of the security agencies.
“There is no cause for being complacent about security.”