News National Mystery surrounds counter terror operation

Mystery surrounds counter terror operation

Counter terror police closed off streets around the church in West Melbourne as one man was led to a waiting divisional van.
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No charges have yet been laid following a counter-terrorism operation near an inner-Melbourne Anglican church on Friday afternoon.

Police are yet to reveal what prompted armed and masked officers to zero in on two people in North Melbourne.

Detectives from the Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT), which comprises members of Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), conducted the operation.

The AFP released a statement on Friday night saying two people were “assisting police” and that no-one had been charged.

“This operation is not linked to a specific incident and is part of the JCTT’s ongoing intelligence gathering,” the statement read.

“It is also not linked to any imminent threat and the community should be assured that there is no ongoing risk as a result of this operation.”

Masked and black-clad officers carrying automatic weapons were conducting “operational activity” near St Mary’s Anglican church in Queensbury Street about 1.30pm when they arrested a man and a woman.

Police take the white-clad man into custody. Photo: Twitter

Authorities later stressed there is no “current or impending threat to the community” and described the arrests as a “routine operation”.

Video footage on Friday showed a handcuffed man in a white forensic jumpsuit being led from near the church in North Melbourne to a waiting vehicle.

A woman was also cuffed and arrested, according to reports.

Witnesses said the man was in normal street attire and ordered to don the jumpsuit after his arrest.

ABC breakfast personality Virginia Trioli, who lives nearby, happened to witness the incident, describing it as “weird. Strange, really strange.”

“There was yelling and vicious barking of dogs outside St Mary’s church on Queensberry St and I saw counter-terrorism police fully kitted out in camouflage and helmets and weapons that I’ve simply never seen before,” Ms Trioli told ABC News.

“There was one man on the ground and a woman kneeling on the opposite corner, very quiet and passive.

“There were plainclothes detectives and uniformed police and the bomb squad as well, and it was incredible to see on a leafy North Melbourne church corner.”

Police also raided an apartment on nearby Bedford Street, with officers subsequently posted outside the residence.

The JCTT statement said the nearby church “in the vicinity” was “unrelated to this operation”.

A resident, who declined to be named said the building’s stairwell was full of police, who reportedly were seen leaving the premises with seized items.

A worker at nearby business Trutrack Suspension told AAP the police action seemed to focus on the church.

“We can hear a few helicopters. We drove through before, it was all blocked off, the road. Police everywhere!” the worker said.

Traffic was blocked from the church’s vicinity but by late afternoon had been allowed to return to its normal flow.

It is not yet known what sparked the incident.

This latest incident comes as more than 250 people were killed in three churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, injuring hundreds more as the island nation braced for more ‘imminent attacks’.

The country’s capital Colombo was again the scene of further raids on Thursday night, as hundreds of police swooped on various locations in a bid to find three male and three female suspects.

On March 15, a lone gunman was arrested and charged with 50 counts of murder in Christchurch after entering two mosques during Friday afternoon prayers.