25 Apr 2016

Sydney teen charged with Anzac Day plot

7:22 pm on 25 April 2016

A 16-year-old boy charged with planning a terrorist act was trying to obtain a gun for an Anzac Day plot in Sydney, an Australian court has been told.

New South Wales police increased the level of security at today's Anzac Day services after charging the teenager.

He was arrested yesterday near his home in Auburn in Sydney's west, after an investigation by officers attached to Operation Vianden.

He was taken to Auburn Police Station, where he was charged with one count of preparing for, or planning, an act of terrorism.

The police said the teenager was known to them, but they believed he was acting alone.

People line up to pay their respects as an elderly man salutes crowd during the Anzac dawn service in Melbourne.

People line up to pay their respects as an elderly man salutes the crowd during today's dawn service in Melbourne. Photo: AFP

Several teenagers have been arrested in Australia in recent years and charged with terrorism offences, including five young men accused by police ofplanning an attack at last year's Anzac Day centenary celebrations.

Police said those planning the attack last year clearly took inspiration from the Islamic State movement, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Dawn services and military parades are held each year around Australia, with the largest drawing crowds of tens of thousands in Sydney and Melbourne.

The arrested teenager's case was heard in the Children's Court this morning, and he did not apply for bail.

Speaking outside court, the boy's lawyer, Zemarai Khatiz, said the case would be defended and a bail application would be lodged on Tuesday.

Papers tendered to the court accused the teenager of trying to obtain a gun to carry out an Anzac Day terror plot - an offence that would carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Anzac Day should be observed free from fear - police

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said anti-terrorism officers were forced to act yesterday afternoon in order to ensure public safety.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione

Andrew Scipione Photo: AFP

"Clearly we have taken swift action to ensure community safety on the eve of a sacred day on the Australian calendar," Mr Scipione said.

When asked, he said police believed an event to mark Anzac Day could have been the target.

"Clearly we'll be suggesting that there was a proposed attack to happen on this day."

Mr Scipione said event security had been increased for the day.

"Our level of security at Anzac Day is always high, we have increased it," he said.

"It is a noticeable increase, but you must remember at the moment Australia is dealing with a threat. Certainly in terms of the level of the alert that is out there, we are 'probable'.

"The attack didn't happen, so that's a good thing," he said.

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New South Wales police have increased security at Anzac events. Photo: 123rf.com

"What we have had is an intervention to stop an attack. That being the case, our level of security at Anzac Day is always high."

He said the age of the teenager now facing charges was of particular note.

"The age of the individual is obviously a concern for us, and it remains a measure of the ongoing task facing law enforcement and the community.

Law enforcement well-equipped, minister says

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the news that a 16-year-old had been arrested was a "chilling and disturbing scenario".

Speaking from Perth, he said Australian security agencies had thwarted six terror attacks on Australian soil in the past 18 months.

"We have invested $AU1.3 billion in our police, Australian Crime Commission, intelligence committee and other agencies that work to keep us safe from terrorism," he said.

"The arrest that they made overnight is actually a good example that they have the capability and the tools that they need to do that, and again I acknowledge the efforts of particularly the agency that I'm responsible for, the Australian Federal Police," he said.

Mr Keenan added that there was no indication that more arrests would be made in relation to the case.

He joined New South Wales Premier Mike Baird in calling for people not to be deterred from attending Anzac Day events.

"This is a day where we should be out, commemorating such a proud day of our history," Mr Baird said.

"Where we come and commemorate those many lives that have been lost defending this nation, defending our freedoms, and that is exactly what we should be doing today."

- ABC / Reuters

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