Three Australian nationals of Turkish descent who allegedly plotted “chilling” terror attacks in Melbourne were charged early on Nov. 20, less than two weeks after a stabbing rampage inspired by the ISIS left two dead in Australia’s second city, police said.
The three men were detained by counter-terror police in overnight raids as they escalated preparations to attack crowded areas of Melbourne, according to police.
The trio, two brothers aged 31 and 26 and 21-year-old, were later charged with planning a terrorist action, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, officials said.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said the men were “certainly inspired by ISIS [another acronym for ISIL]”, but had no known links to a specific organization.
They had been under investigation since March but had become “more energized” since the ISIS-inspired stabbing attack in Melbourne on November 9, he said.
The men had sought to purchase semi-automatic .22 calibre rifles and police were concerned they could target upcoming Christmas season events that will see huge crowds gathering in the city.
“There was a view towards a crowded place, a place where maximum people would be attending, to be able to kill, we allege, as maximum an amount of people as possible,” Ashton told reporters.
The group had not yet picked a specific target or time for the attack, and Ashton added that police were confident Nov. 20’s arrests had “neutralized any threat to the... community from this group.”
In the November 9 attack, a Somali-born Australian, Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, stabbed and killed one man and wounded two others in a central shopping area before being shot dead by police.
Meanwhile, Australia unveiled a radical plan on Nov. 22 to strip convicted terrorists of their citizenship even if they are native-born Australians.
Acting after a series of Jihadist-inspired plots and attacks in the country, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government needed expanded powers to withdraw citizenship from anyone found guilty of terrorist activity.
“People who commit acts of terrorism have rejected absolutely everything that this country stands for,” Morrison told a hastily organized press conference.
“This is something that can’t be tolerated, and for those who would engage in this sort of activity, and they have citizenship elsewhere, or we have reason to believe they do, they can go.”
Australia’s current Citizenship Act allows authorities to revoke citizenship from people jailed for six years or more for terrorist activities, but only if they are already dual nationals.
Morrison called these limits “unrealistic” and said the law should be broadened so that anyone convicted of a terrorist offence, even native-born Australians, could be expelled if they could “reasonably” be expected to gain citizenship in another country through their parents or grandparents.
The conservative government will submit legislation to amend the Citizenship Act to enshrine these new powers by the end of the year, he said.