News National ‘Imminent’ attack by teens inspired by IS, police allege

‘Imminent’ attack by teens inspired by IS, police allege

New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn (R) and Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan. Photo: Getty
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Two teenage boys have been charged with terror-related offences, allegedly involving an “imminent” attack inspired by Islamic State (IS).

The 16-year-olds were arrested by the Joint Counter Terrorism Team near a Bankstown prayer hall in western Sydney on Wednesday, with police charging them early on Thursday with acts in preparation to commit a terrorist act and also membership of a terrorist organisation.

The boys did not appear at a hearing in Parramatta Children’s Court on Thursday morning.

Officers allegedly seized two military-style bayonets, which can be attached to rifles, during their arrest in Bankstown on Wednesday.

Police intercepted the pair as they were heading into a prayer hall in Adnum Lane, an alley off Featherstone Street.

NSW Police deputy commissioner Catherine Burn told media on Thursday morning that police will allege that the boys were inspired by IS and that they were planning an attack with the knives allegedly bought from a gun shop in Bankstown on Wednesday.

“They have then gone from that location, caught a bus to the location in Bankstown where they were arrested and those items were seized,” Ms Burn said. 

Ms Burn said police had no information to indicate the attack involved a beheading, as reported by some media.

“Whilst we are still looking at what the motivations were and what their connections were, that is specific information we don’t know, but what we do know and what we can assure is that we did prevent what we would suspect was going to be an attack,” Ms Burn said. 

Ms Burn confirmed the pair was known to police.

“We were well aware of these two 16-year-olds and, again, I can’t say a great deal about them … but … we have been concerned about them.

We don’t have any specific information of a particular target where we will allege that there was going to be an imminent attack.

“What we do know, though, is that the actions, we will allege, were enough to say they were preparing to do an attack although we don’t know specifically where that attack was going to take place.”

The two men remain in custody and police say there is no ongoing threat to the community.

Charges carry maximum life sentence

At a press conference this morning, police said the boys had been charged with acts in preparation to commit a terrorist act and with having membership with a terrorist organisation.

“Those charges are extremely serious charges with the acts in preparation to commit a terrorist act with a maximum of life imprisonment,” Ms Burn said.

She said it was is “the 11th imminent attack… we have prevented in this country. There have been four attacks, three have been in NSW.”

No ‘silver bullet’ to youth radicalisation

As part of their operation, officers searched a number of homes and also a prayer hall.

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Phelan said:

“We have been saying for a long time now that primary for all of us is about public safety, and we will act as soon as we have enough information to be able to disrupt any activity.”

“Anybody who says they’ve got the silver bullet to youth radicalisation, please tell me all about it,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner Burn said it was “up to the parents” to look for early signs of radicalisation in their children.

“The age, the 16-year-old is going to be a concern to any of us, and it’s going to be a concern to parents, and it’s really where the hub of this is,” she said.

Minister for Justice Michael Keenan said police were being trained in “indicators of radicalisation”

“Since the national terrorism threat level was raised on 12 September 2014, there have been four attacks, and now 11 major [counter-terrorism] disruption operations in response to potential attack planning in Australia,” he said.

“I would like to reassure the public that following these arrests there is no immediate or ongoing threat to the public.”

– with ABC and AAP