Australian authorities have dismantled a plot which they believe was a coordinated, ISIS-inspired attempt to randomly behead civilians in Brisbane and Sydney. Put briefly, fifteen people were apprehended and a sword was discovered at one of several properties some 800 policemen and women raided early Thursday morning. The Associated Press reports:
Police on Thursday said they thwarted a plot to carry out beheadings in Australia by supporters of the radical Islamic State group. They detained 15 people and raided more than a dozen properties across Sydney, though nine of those brought in were freed before the day was over. The raids involving 800 federal and state police officers — the largest in the country's history — came in response to intelligence that an Islamic State group leader in the Middle East was calling on Australian supporters to kill, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.
Abbott was asked about reports that the detainees were planning to behead a random person in Sydney. "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 to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country."
The Guardian has more details about who this alleged, mastermind terrorist might be:
Two men were charged and nine people released. Under Australia’s counter-terrorism laws, those detained could be held for two weeks without charge.
One man, Omarjan Azari, 22, appeared in Sydney central court on Thursday afternoon to face charges of preparing to commit a terrorist act.
It is alleged he conspired to commit the act with another man, Mohammad Baryalei, a former Sydney bouncer and actor of Afghan origin, reportedly an Islamic State leader.
If anything, this almost-successful massacre in Australia is a serious and much-needed reminder that ISIS’s poisonous ideology is spreading worldwide and not just confined to the Middle East. Australian authorities, meanwhile, now believe that if they didn’t intervene when they did -- thus carrying out the largest and most sophisticated anti-terrorist manhunt since the country was founded -- the plot could very well have succeeded:
Nine of those detained were later released, New South Wales police said. They did not say why, or whether they will face charges later. The raids came just days after the country raised its terrorism threat to the second-highest level in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group. At the time, Abbott stressed that there was no information suggesting a terror attack was imminent.
Later Thursday, Attorney General George Brandis confirmed that a person born in Afghanistan who had spent time in Australia and is now working with the Islamic State group in the Middle East ordered supporters in Australia to behead people and videotape the killings. "If the ... police had not acted today, there is a likelihood that this would have happened," Brandis told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
For what it's worth, we actually have aerial footage of a police raid as it went down this morning, courtesy of The Washington Post:
Authorities have been tracking terrorist activities in Australia for months now, culminating in Thursday's pre-dawn operation. At the same time, the government also believes "at least 60 Australians" (but probably more) have betrayed their country by joining the terrorist organization ISIS overseas.