Melbourne: Three men were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of plotting an “Islamic State (IS)-isnpired” terrorist attack in Melbourne, police said.
“They were certainly looking at a place of mass gathering, where there would be crowds. They were trying to focus on trying to have a place where they could kill as many people as possible,” Graham Ashton, Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, told the media.
Ashton said that the suspects, who have not been identified, tried to get .22 caliber semi-automatic rifles but that the exact place in which they sought to attack was unknown, reports CNN.
The possible attack “was inspired” by the IS’s modus operandi but was not “directed” by this extremist Islamic organisation, the Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner, Ian McCartney, said.
The three men, two of them with family ties and who were being watched by the police from March, were arrested during police operations on Tuesday morning in four neighbourhoods in northwest Melbourne.
“All three people are Australian nationals of Turkish background,” said Ashton, who also said that the passports of the three suspects, ranging in age from 21 to 30, were cancelled this year.
The police operation coincides with the funeral of Sisto Malaspina, co-owner of a restaurant in Melbourne, who died on November 9 in the centre of the city in an attack that was also inspired by the IS.
Australian authorities raised the terrorist alert in September 2014 and have since passed a series of anti-terrorist laws to prevent attacks.
Australia has suffered four attacks recently, and security forces have thwarted more than a dozen plans to carry out attacks and have arrested more than 70 people in various operations.