Melbourne terrorist plot: What do we know about the alleged foiled Christmas attack?

Seven people have been arrested for allegedly planning a terrorist attack in Melbourne, which police say could have occurred on Christmas Day and which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described as one of the most substantial terrorist plots to be disrupted in recent years.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the threat was “very serious” and labelled the plot an “act of evil”.

So what do we know so far?

What has happened?

Victoria Police were involved in joint counter-terrorism raids in Melbourne’s north-west overnight.

The raids also involved the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Seven people were arrested and authorities say they believe a group of four men were intending to carry out an attack in Melbourne’s CBD involving explosives and other weapons, possibly on Christmas Day.

Of the seven arrested, five remain in custody.

Who was arrested?

Six men and one woman were arrested in the suburbs in Melbourne’s north-west.

Those arrested include a 24-year-old man from Meadow Heights, a 26-year-old man from Dallas, a 22-year-old man from Campbellfield, a 21-year-old man from Flemington and a 21-year-old man from Gladstone Park.

A 20-year-old woman, and a 26 year-old man from Meadow Heights have been released without being charged.

No charges have yet been laid.

Commissioner Ashton said four of those arrested were Australian born with a Lebanese background and another was an Egyptian-born Australian citizen.


What was planned?

Police believe those involved in the plot were inspired by the Islamic State group and planned to target high-profile Melbourne locations.

Commissioner Ashton said police found the makings of an improvised explosive device during the raids.

He said there was also evidence of an intention to use other weapons, including include knives or a firearm.

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the foiled plot was “amongst most serious in terms of its intent, and in terms of the capability of the people disrupted”.

Where were the likely targets?

Police say the areas they believe attacks were planned include Federation Square, Flinders Street Station, and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Those locations are in Melbourne’s central business district and are often heavily populated with pedestrian traffic.

Police said the attacks would have caused significant harm to the community, including likely injuries and deaths.

Are we safe over the Christmas period?

Authorities have moved to reassure the public after the arrests.

Commissioner Ashton said there would be an increased police presence over the Christmas period, including for the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said he had spoken to authorities in all states of Australia to beef up police on the streets.

“The police presence will be noticeable, but it won’t be intrusive,” he said.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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