Australian police foiled a plot by terrorists who were planning to bring down an airplane, the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said Sunday, July 30.
Turnbull confirmed there had been a “major joint counter terrorism operation” to disrupt a terrorist plot and said the operation is still ongoing.
“At this stage, four people have been arrested and a considerable amount of material has been seized by police,” Turnbull told reporters at a press conference.
Police told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the four men were arrested on Saturday across the Sydney suburbs of Surry Hills, immediately south of the CBD, and Lakemba, Wiley Park and Punchbowl in the south-west. Police found items that could be used to make homemade bombs when raiding the Surry Hills property.
Authorities believed that the group planned to smuggle the devices onto a plane in order to blow it up.
“We do believe it is Islamic-inspired terrorism. Exactly what is behind this is something that we will need to investigate fully,”said Australian Federal Police (AFP) commissioner Andrew Colvin.
Colvin added that specific details of the attack and its location and timing remain unclear.
Seven Network television reported that 40 riot squad officers wearing gas masks stormed the Surry Hills house before an explosives team found the suspicious device, according to CBS.
Security at Sydney Airport was heightened on Thursday after authorities first received information about the terrorist plot on Wednesday, reported ABC. The increased security measures were also extended to all major international and domestic terminals around Australia on Thursday night.
Turnbull said Australia’s national threat level remains unchanged at “probable.”
He urged travelers taking the plane in Australia to arrive earlier in order to allow time for the additional security measures.
All four men are currently being held at the Sydney Police Centre in Surry Hills. They can be held for up to 14 days without charge under state counter-terrorism laws. These laws allow police sufficient time to preserve evidence of a recent terrorist act or prevent an imminent terrorist act.
Police will now perform extensive searches of the mens’ homes for any further evidence of what the group may have been planning.
“My number one priority and that of my Government is the safety and security of all Australians,” Turnbull said in a statement.