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Australia Detains 5 in IS-inspired Christmas Day Bomb Plot

  • VOA News

FILE - Office workers walk through Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia, May 11, 2011. Police say suspected terrorists now under arrest had planned to attack the square and other targets.

FILE - Office workers walk through Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia, May 11, 2011. Police say suspected terrorists now under arrest had planned to attack the square and other targets.

Several people allegedly planning a series of bomb attacks in Melbourne, Australia, on Christmas Day have been arrested, and the plot was foiled, police said Friday.

"This is a significant disruption of what we would describe as an imminent terrorist event in Melbourne," Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin told reporters in Sydney. "We do believe ... that we have removed this threat in its entirety."

Originally, seven people, all in their 20s, were arrested, police said. But two people — a man and a woman — were released later Friday. Five men are still being detained, police added.

The suspects were "self-radicalized" and inspired by Islamic State propaganda, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said. He added they had planned to attack high-profile locations in Australia's second-largest city, including Flinders Street train station, Federation Square and St. Paul's Cathedral.

"Over the last fortnight ... we have had to conduct a criminal investigation relating to the formation of what we believe was a terrorist plot," Ashton told reporters. "We believe that there was an intention to conduct what we call a multimode attack, possibly on Christmas Day."

Officials said they thought the raids, which involved about 400 police officers, had neutralized the threat. The raids occurred Thursday night and Friday morning, Ashton said.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews told the French news agency AFP that extra police would be deployed in Melbourne on Sunday, Christmas Day, as a public safety measure.

The arrests in Melbourne came just days after a truck smashed into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. IS has claimed responsibility for Monday's Berlin attack.

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