SYDNEY - A court in Sydney has charged two men arrested during counterterrorism raids with involvement in the Islamic State terror group. Australian investigators continue to interview the alleged mastermind of an Islamic State-inspired plot to attack buildings, including churches, courts and embassies. He has also been accused preparing an act of terror.
The men were arrested in simultaneous raids in Sydney. Twenty-three-year old Radwan Dakkak has been charged with being a member of the Islamic State terror group, or IS, which is a crime in Australia.
Investigators believe another man, Isaak el-Matari, who is 20, was the mastermind behind a suspected conspiracy to attack buildings in Sydney, Australia’s biggest city. Senior officers have said planning for an attack was in its “early stages” and that police stations, military establishments, courts and churches were potential targets.
El-Matari had been under surveillance in Australia since returning from Lebanon last year. It is alleged he planned to travel to Afghanistan to fight with Islamic State extremists there.
It is the 16th alleged major plot to have been foiled in Australia since 2014.
“There are still those people in the community who wish to do us harm, who wish to do the community of Australia harm," says Ian McCartney, the assistant commissioner of the Australian Federal Police. "I want to say they don’t represent the Islamic faith. Their actions are criminal, and they represent hatred and terror.”
Australia has warned of the twin threat to its national security of home-grown extremists, often radicalized online, and of militants returning home after fighting with terrorist groups overseas.
A third man arrested in raids Tuesday has been charged with fraud, and has been released on bail. He has not been accused of terrorism offenses.
Australia’s national terror threat level remains set at "probable," which means the authorities suspect that individuals and groups have the intent and capability to carry out an attack.