A massive security sting operation hauled in 15 suspects and foiled a plot by the Islamist State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to hold a public beheading in Australia.
More than 800 police officers were involved in the raids that revolved around 22-year-old Omarjan Azari, who was charged on Thursday with preparing to commit a terrorist act.
An intercepted phone call triggered the operation, prosecutors said.
A senior member of ISIS was urging Azari and his group to carry out the demonstration executions, according to Prime Minister Tony Abbott. “That’s the intelligence we received,” he told reporters.
“The exhortations, quite direct exhortations, were coming from an Australian, who is apparently quite senior in ISIL (Islamic State in the Levant, an alternate name for ISIS), to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country. So this is not just suspicion, this is intent and that’s why the police and security agencies decided to act in the way they have.”
Azari appeared in Sydney central court, where prosecutors told the judge the suspect planned to “shock, horrify and potentially terrify” the public with such executions.
Bail was denied because he was considered a flight risk, partly due to his “unusual level of fanaticism,” the court said.
Australian federal police Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin said a warning had been received the plot involved abducting a passerby from the street in New South Wales and beheading them while filming the murder.
The other 14 suspects can be held for up to 14 days without being charged, under Australia’s counter terrorism laws, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.