31 July 2017

Sydney homes searched over ‘plane bomb plot’

Police search for evidence at a home in Sydney's Surry HillsImage copyright
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Police search for evidence at a home in inner Sydney

Australian police are searching five properties in Sydney over a suspected terrorism plot to bring down a plane.

Four men were arrested in raids across the city on Saturday. Local media said two are a father and son.

Police said they had seized materials that could have been used to make an improvised explosive device.

The four men arrested can be held for seven days without charge after a magistrate granted police special counter-terrorism powers.

Authorities have increased security measures at Australian airports, prompting lengthy queues and passenger confusion.

What was the alleged plot?

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the men arrested were allegedly linked to an Islamist-inspired plan to detonate an improvised explosive device.

He said police did not yet have information on “the specific attack, the location, date or time”.

Local media reported that police had seized a meat mincer, but this has not been confirmed by authorities.

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Passengers endure delays at Sydney Airport on Monday

“There will be lots of speculation around about what the intent was, but obviously all of us have been working hard over recent days and we rely upon the expertise of the federal police and [other agencies],” said Peter Dutton, a minister who will soon oversee all of Australia’s domestic security arrangements.

Who is under arrest?

The four men were arrested from raids in the Sydney suburbs of Surry Hills, Lakemba, Wiley Park and Punchbowl.

According to local media, they include a father and son and another pair who are also related.

No charges have been laid. On Sunday, a magistrate gave permission for an additional period of detention, meaning the four can be held for up to seven days without charge.

What are police doing now?

They are gathering evidence, including from five houses in Sydney, in a process that could last for days.

Police have said they intervened early because it was a counter-terrorism operation. Had it been another type of investigation, they may have waited before conducting raids.

Mr Colvin urged the public to be patient because police did not yet “have all the pieces of the puzzle to put together”.

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The raids took place late on Saturday local time

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised authorities for moving swiftly and said Australians should feel confident in their security agencies.

“This is now the 13th terrorist plot which has been disrupted by our agencies since 2014,” he said.

Australia’s national terror threat level remains at “probable” – the third level on a scale of five.

What is the impact on travel?

Passengers have been warned to arrive at Australian airports an hour earlier than usual amid heightened security arrangements.

The new measures have led to huge queues, particularly at the busiest airports in Sydney and Melbourne.

Mr Turnbull said the arrangements could remain for some time.

“I want to thank the travelling public for their forbearance,” Mr Turnbull said.

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