Police have arrested seven people suspected of intending to carry out a Christmas Day terror plot in Melbourne, Australia, Friday morning.
Some of these suspects — although Australian-born — have Lebanese and Egyptian backgrounds, according to police, and were likely inspired by the Islamic State to plan the “significant” attack, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Melbourne Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said the suspects, all in their twenties, were likely planning to set explosives at three major landmarks: Federation Square, Flinders St. Station and St. Paul’s Cathedral on Christmas Day.
“These individuals have been persons of interest for some period of time,” Ashton said. “They’re people we have been concerned about for a period of time.”
“If this had gone under guard, this would have been a significant attack,” Ashton added.
As part of a joint operation between Victoria police, federal police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, police conducted raids Friday morning, at which point they discovered an improvised explosive device under construction.
Now that the arrests have been made, Ashton said that Melbourne was no longer under any sort of terrorist threat, since the suspects are not believed to have any kind of help outside of Australia. Rather, Ashton said the suspects were inspired and self-radicalized by ISIS propaganda.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull referred to the foiled terror plot as one of one of “the most substantial terrorist plots” ever uncovered in Australia.
“What these criminals seek to do is to kill. But they also seek to frighten us, to cower us into abandoning our Australian way of life,” Turnbull added.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews pledged that there will be an increased police presence out on the streets during the Christmas season.
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