SYDNEY • Australian counter-terrorism police said they arrested three men in raids across Sydney yesterday, with alleged links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group over an alleged plot to attack police stations, embassies and defence facilities in central Sydney.
The three men were arrested after their online activities raised suspicion, the police added.
Australia, a staunch US ally, has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since 2014 and the authorities say they have thwarted 16 major plots since.
Two of the arrested men, aged 20 and 23, are charged with being members of ISIS, a crime under Australian laws, with the younger man accused of plotting the Sydney attack, which the police said was in the early stages of planning.
"We will say that they had a number of targets, including police stations, defence establishments, embassies and councils, courts and churches," Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Ian McCartney told reporters in Sydney.
"There are still those people within the community who wish to do us harm," he said. "I want to say they don't represent the Islamic faith. Their actions are criminal and they represent hatred and terror."
The police made the arrests because they had compiled sufficient evidence for charges, Mr McCarthy said, but offered few details.
The third man, aged 30, is charged with welfare fraud.
The police did not name those charged, who are expected to appear in court yesterday or today.
The so-called ISIS caliphate was established in 2014 and although it has been driven in the past year from all territory it once held in Syria and Iraq, the authorities say it remains a threat as an underground movement.
Mr McCarthy said the man charged with plotting had been tracked by the Australian authorities since the middle of last year, when he drew their attention by travelling to Lebanon.
He now faces life imprisonment, if convicted. The others face sentences as long as 10 years.
The men knew one another on social media, the police added.
In addition to the Sydney plot, the 20-year-old planned to travel to Afghanistan to fight there for ISIS, and the 23-year-old was prominent among extremists online globally.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE