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Australia Arrests 5 in Suspected Terror Plot

  • VOA News

FILE - Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks about the nation's new anti-extremism strategy during a question time at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Feb. 23, 2015.

FILE - Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks about the nation's new anti-extremism strategy during a question time at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Feb. 23, 2015.

Australian police Saturday arrested five teenagers suspected of plotting a terrorist attack inspired by the Islamic State (IS) group.

"The act that we believe was in preparation involved attacks against police officers on ANZAC Day," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a news conference.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The April 25 day of remembrance is a commemoration of the troops' landings on the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli during World War One. The year was 1915, so this year marks the centennial.

"At this stage we have no information that it was a planned beheading," said Neil Gaughan, Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police. "But there was reference to an attack on police. Some evidence that we have collected at a couple of the scenes, and some other information we have, leads us to believe that this particular matter was ISIS inspired."

Prime Minister Abbott said the teens were a known threat for "quite a few months," but that the government "responded effectively to it at all stages." He urged people to continue living life normally.

"The best sign of defiance that we can give to those who would do us harm is to go about a normal, peaceful, free and fair Australian life," Abbott said Saturday. "And I say to everyone who is thinking of going to an ANZAC Day event, please don't be deterred. Turn up in the largest possible numbers to support our country, to support our values, and to support our armed forces."

The Australian government raised the national terrorism alert level last year to "high" in response to threats by supporters of IS militants.

The five suspects arrested Saturday were all either 18 or 19. Officials say they had links to another teen, Abdul Numan Haider, a suspected IS supporter shot dead by police in Melbourne last year after stabbing two officers.

Saturday's arrests also took place in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state.

"These individuals arrested today are not people of faith, they don't represent any culture," said Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews Saturday. "This is simply evil, plain and simple," he said. "This is frightening."

Some material for this report comes from AP and Reuters.

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