Australian police arrest four accused of plotting terrorist attack

Police say the four Australian citizens had received training in Somalia and were planning to attack a military barracks in Sydney.

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Australian police have arrested four people in Melbourne accused of plotting a suicide attack on an Army base. The men are believed to have ties to Al Shabab, an extremist Somali organization that has been linked to Al Qaeda.

The four Australian citizens, of Somali and Lebanese descent, were arrested in a massive predawn raid that involved more than 400 police officers searching 19 locations, reports The Guardian. It was the culmination of a seven-month investigation during which police say they discovered the men had received training in Somalia and were planning to attack a military barracks in Sydney and kill as many soldiers as possible before being killed themselves.

One man, Nayef el-Sayed, has been charged with conspiring to commit a terrorist attack, reports the BBC, while police are still questioning three others. According to police, they had sought religious justification for the attack.

Mr. Sayed remained defiant while appearing in a magistrate's court on Tuesday, reports The Age, an Australian daily.

The Australian reports that police have been granted more time to question one of the four men arrested, and have applied for an extension for the other two.

The alleged target of the attack, the Holsworthy Barracks, is in an army base on the outskirts of Sydney and houses an antiterrorism unit, reports The Age.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Tuesday's arrests are not entirely unexpected. A Somali Islamic scholar at the International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur had previously pointed out that disaffected Somali youth might be recruited to participate in terrorist activities.

An analysis in The Times of London also points out that the Australian authorities have been aware of local terror threats.

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