SYDNEY - Australian counter-terrorism officers have raided homes in the city of Melbourne and arrested a man accused of funding a terrorist organization. The raids are the latest in a crackdown on radical Islamists who authorities believe are supporting militants in the Middle East or planning attacks at home.
Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said the raids on homes in five Melbourne suburbs and the arrest were based on information provided by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The search warrants were the culmination of an eight month investigation, named Operation Holt and Southberg, which began following information provided by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, and we'd like to thank the FBI for their assistance with this matter. I can confirm that [a] 23-year-old man from Seabrook will be charged with intentionally making funds to a terrorist organization,” said Gaughan.
Gaughan said the suspect tried to funnel $10,500 to a U.S. man fighting in Syria.
The operation was smaller than raids carried out earlier this month in Sydney and Brisbane that authorities say thwarted a plan for a random beheading. Senior officers stress that the raids and the arrest in Melbourne were not a response to a threat to public safety.
Earlier this month Australia raised its domestic terror threat level from medium to high, prompting greater security at government buildings, sporting events and iconic tourism locations.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said at least 150 Australians are in the Middle East either fighting with, or supporting, Islamic State or other radical groups, a number that he said has increased in recent months.
Last week, an 18-year old Afghan-Australian was shot dead after attacking two police officers in Melbourne. Reports suggest the teenager had planned to behead an officer, drape an Islamic State flag over the body and post the images online.
Canberra has already sent military personnel and eight Super Hornet fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates.
The nation's top security officials are expected to approve combat missions against Sunni militants in the next few days.