Two charged after anti-terrorism raid in Australia

MELBOURNE – Police in Sydney charged two men Wednesday with terrorism-related offenses relating to an “imminent” attack, local media reported.

Omar al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, were arrested when officers swooped on a property in the western Sydney suburb of Fairfield Tuesday, where they allegedly found a militant Islamist-style flag, a machete and a hunting knife, according to media reports.

The men have been charged with undertaking acts in preparation or planning for a terrorist act.

Prosecutor Michael Allnutt told Fairfield Local Court the pair, who did not appear, faced "very, very serious allegations," ABC News said. The case was adjourned to Thursday.

New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn said the alleged plot was “consistent with the messaging coming out of IS,” referring to the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL.

The flag discovered was a home-made banner representing ISIL, Burn added. Officers also found a video showing a man discussing an attack that led them to believe it would be carried out soon.

"We will allege that both of these men were preparing to do this act yesterday [Tuesday]," she said, quoted by ABC News.

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan said: "We believe that the men were potentially going to harm somebody, maybe even kill somebody, and potentially using one of the items that we identified and recovered yesterday, potentially a knife."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the arrests demonstrated the authorities were dealing with the terrorism threat.

"This was an imminent attack in Australia inspired by the ISIL death cult," he said. "This is a serious issue and I suspect it will get worse before it gets better.

"As we've seen again and again the death cult is reaching out all around the world, including here in Australia, and regrettably there are people in this country who are susceptible to these incitements to extremism and even terrorism."

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird described the alleged plot as "beyond disturbing."

He added: "Certainly something catastrophic was avoided yesterday and for that we should be very thankful."

A neighbor told The Australian newspaper that al-Kotobi was a computer science student from Iraq who had recently taken Australian citizenship while Kiad had worked as a nurse in Kuwait and arrived to live with al-Kutobi last year.

Roberto Macatangay said the previously friendly pair had become more agitated in recent months.

In December, Australia was shocked by a siege in central Sydney that saw a gunman purporting to support ISIL take customers and staff hostage. Two hostages were killed.

In a large-scale police operation in September, around a dozen people were arrested, including a man accused of plotting to behead members of the public in Sydney and Brisbane.

Australia joined the U.S.-led military alliance against ISIL in October. The government believes at least 60 Australians are fighting with terrorist groups in the Middle East.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency