Police forces in Australia have foiled an ISIS orchestrated plot to behead random citizens, following a massive anti-terrorist raid in the early hours of Thursday morning. The raid, which involved at least 800 officers and the execution of 25 search warrants, led to the arrests of 15 people in Sydney, one of Australia’s largest cities.
Omarjan Azari, 22, has been accused of conspiring to commit terrorist acts. He will now remain in police custody until his hearing in November. According to Prosecutor Michael Allnut, Azari was planning to carry out an attack that was designed to “shock and horrify, perhaps terrify” the community. This plot involved the abduction of a randomly selected Australian citizen, who would then be beheaded on video camera while wearing the ISIS flag. Also among those arrested was a 24-year-old man who has since been charged with possession of a prohibited weapon and the unlicensed possession of ammunition.
Other suspicious objects uncovered during the pre-dawn operation included a scimitar, machetes, balaclavas and military fatigues. The items served as evidence that the arrested men were involved in a plot to “terrorise” the community, according to law enforcement officials.
The raid was authorized after intelligence reported that Mohammed Ali Baryalei, a citizen who is believed to be a senior ISIS member in the Middle-East, was actively encouraging ISIS followers in Australia to commit gruesome killings. Azari had allegedly been conspiring with Baryalei and several other ISIS members. This information was obtained from an intercepted phone call, which prompted Australian law enforcement to carry out the anti-terrorist raid.
The heroic efforts of the police officers who foiled the ISIS plot to behead random Australian citizens have not eased the nerves of the country’s people or government. Up to 160 Australians are believed to have been involved with the Islamic State, either fighting alongside ISIS troops or actively supporting the cause in the Middle-East. Officials believe 20 ISIS suporters have since returned home and now pose a significant security concern for Australian government and law-enforcement agencies.
The arrests of 15 suspected ISIS sympathizers, while celebrated as a success, also serves to highlight the danger Australian citizens may face inside their country’s borders. With the country’s Muslim population now over half a million strong, the true number of ISIS sympathizers is likely unknown. Australia has recently raised its national terror threat level to “high” for the first time, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot personally expressed the increased danger of attacks by radicalized Australian Muslims. Abbot, who has promised the nation’s support for the United States and its anti-ISIS coalition, now appears to be fighting terrorism on two fronts. Police presence has since been increased throughout Australia in public areas and around iconic buildings.
The city-wide raid and subsequent arrests have been publicly condemned by members of Australia’s Muslim community. At least 200 people were involved in a protest on Thursday night which accused law enforcement of inciting political hysteria and committing acts of police brutality.
The police raid which foiled the ISIS plot to abduct and behead randomly selected Australian citizens on Sydney’s streets was preceded by a much smaller operation in the northern city of Brisbane. Seventy officers were involved and two men have since been arrested after police raided an Islamic center in the suburb of Logan. Officials have since confirmed that the Brisbane operation was unrelated to the raids conducted across Sydney.
By Mathew Channer