SYDNEY • Australian police have charged a teenager over a "truly chilling and disturbing" planned attack on an Anzac Day service, as people across the nation and in New Zealand honoured their war dead.
Reports said the 16-year-old had tried to get hold of a gun over the weekend, and was believed to be planning to target one of the solemn ceremonies that mark the anniversary of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign during World War I, in which thousands died.
The youth, who has not been named, has been charged with one count of doing an act in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act. He was arrested on Sunday near his home in Auburn, in Sydney's west.
The youth did not apply for bail when the matter was briefly heard before a Children's Court yesterday. His lawyer said the youth was upset and would defend himself against the charge, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the youth had been under observation for some time, but developments made it necessary to act swiftly. Police said they are satisfied that he was acting alone.
An Australian Broadcasting Corporation report said the youth had been monitored in communication with a radicalised Australian overseas and since last year, had been in an intervention programme intended to work against radicalisation.
TERRORISTS' NEW TARGETS
Unfortunately, this is part of a pattern that we have been observing, where younger and younger people are targeted and incited to go and commit an act of terror.
AUSTRALIAN JUSTICE MINISTER MICHAEL KEENAN
"This is a truly chilling and disturbing scenario, and is a sad reflection of the current terror threat landscape in Australia," Justice Minister Michael Keenan said.
Mr Keenan said the international security situation had deteriorated over the past 18 months because of the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group, and Australia was not immune.
"Unfortunately, this is part of a pattern that we have been observing, where younger and younger people are targeted and incited to go and commit an act of terror," he said.
Police said security had been increased for services to mark Anzac Day, which is named for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac), and remembers all servicemen and women.
"Our level of security at Anzac Day is always high," Commissioner Scipione said.
"We have increased it and at this stage, it's a noticeable increase."
Thousands attended moving dawn services and parades in Australia yesterday, marking April 25, 1915, when the Anzacs stormed the beaches on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, in an ill-fated World War I battle.
In New Zealand, tens of thousands also turned out for Anzac Day services, with Governor-General Jerry Mateparae saying it was important to honour those who perished. Australia, New Zealand and former foe Turkey also held a joint remembrance ceremony at Gallipoli.