Three men have been arrested following a counter terrorism operation in Melbourne.
On Tuesday morning, Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) confirmed they had conducted an operation in the Victorian city which resulted in a number of arrests.
The operation saw three men arrested and the execution of four warrants in the North West Metro Region. According to the official statement by Victoria Police, three men remain in custody including a 30-year-old man from Dallas, a 26-year-old man from Campbellfield and a 21-year-old man from Greenvale.
A fourth property had also been searched in Coolaroo.
“It will be alleged the three men arrested were involved in undertaking preparations for planning a terrorist act in Melbourne,” Victoria Police said in a statement. “The operation is ongoing and further information will be made available at the appropriate time.
“Victoria Police would like to reassure the community that the threat has been contained and there is no on-going threat.”
Police said the community should continue to go about their daily business but that any suspicious activity should be reported either to triple zero, Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400.
At a later press conference, Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said Police didn’t know where the attack was planned, but there was evidence to suggest an attack was imminent.
“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,” he said.
Police also alleged the men attempted to purchase guns.
The latest update from police comes less than two weeks after Hassan Khalif Shire Ali stabbed three people and killed one in a deadly attack in Melbourne’s Bourke Street.
Restaurant owner Sisto Malaspina, 74, was killed during the knife attack, while two others survived their injuries. The family of 30-year-old Shire Ali claimed he was suffering from mental health problems and that he wasn’t a terrorist, while Australian prime minister Scott Morrison insisted he was a terrorist.
Appearing on Studio 10 shortly after the attacks, Morrison said those saying Shire Ali had mental health problems were making excuses.
“I think that’s an excuse,” he said. “This bloke, radicalised here in Australia with extreme Islam, took a knife and cut down a fellow Australian in Bourke Street. I’m not going to make excuses for that.”
The PM also dismissed claims that Shire Ali was simply a madman.
“That is the same lame, old, tired excuse for not dealing with this problem as has always been served up,” Morrison said. “Whether it’s [Labor MP] Anne Aly saying it or whether it’s someone else in the community saying that, I don’t believe that’s where the majority of decent, hard-working, respectable Australian Muslims are at.”
He added those in the Muslim community want it to be safer but that people were coming in and “infecting their young people” with hatred and false-teaching.
“That has to be called out and it has to be stopped,” he said. “This happened because of an Australian citizen who was radicalised in Australia. He didn’t bring it from somewhere else. He learned it all here. It’s the elephant in the room and you’ve got to acknowledge it.”