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Australia Charges 2 in Counterterrorism Operation

  • VOA News

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan speaks to the media that two Sydney men have been arrested by the Joint Counter Terrorism team in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014.

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan speaks to the media that two Sydney men have been arrested by the Joint Counter Terrorism team in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014.

Australian authorities have arrested and charged two men as part of a wider counter-terrorism investigation, a day after Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned of increased "terrorist chatter."

Twenty-year-old Sulayman Khalid was charged Wednesday with "possession of documents designed to facilitate a terrorist attack." A 21-year-old man, whose name was not given, was charged with disobeying a police control order.

The arrests were related to a series of police raids in Sydney and Brisbane in September. A total of 11 people arrested in those raids have now been charged with terrorism-related offenses.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Michael Phelan says the documents seized from Khalid "talked a little about potential government targets" in Sydney, though he stressed there was no specific timeframe for an attack.

"I don't want to go into too much operational detail, but there was enough there that gave concern to us that something was being planned, and that's why a person was charged in relation to having a document that was designed to clearly facilitate an attack," said Phelan.

Phelan also said he is confident that authorities have disrupted the planned terrorist activity.

The arrests follow the police monitoring of a group of about 15 to 20 people in Sydney who are supportive of Islamic State extremists. Phelan said the group is actively supporting the Islamic State through funding, sending fighters, and planning attacks.

The group is not believed to be connected to Man Haron Monis, the Iranian-born gunman who last week took 17 hostages at gunpoint at a downtown Sydney cafe. Two of the hostages and the gunman died when police raided the cafe after a grueling, 16-hour standoff.

Though Monis expressed support for the Islamic State, police believe the self-professed Islamic sheikh was acting alone and did not have any terrorist links.

The Sydney cafe attack has rattled Australians and resulted in an increased police presence on the streets of the country's most populous city.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday warned that authorities have detected a "heightened level of terrorist chatter" in the days following the cafe siege.

The country's terror alert has remained at the current "high" level since September, when Australia expanded its role in the fight against the Islamic State.

Australia has contributed to the U.S.-led military effort aimed at forcing the militants from the territory they control in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Dozens of Australian citizens are believed to have gone to the Middle East to fight for the extremist group, and authorities say many have since returned.

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