Hundreds of Australian police conducted raids in a pre-dawn counter-terrorism operation against Islamic State militants who were allegedly planning a public beheading of a random citizen, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Thursday.
About 800 police officers carried out the operation, resulting in the detention of 15 people. The operation was the largest in Australian history, police said, and focused on suburbs in western Sydney and Brisbane.
According to Abbott, the radicalized citizens had planned to conduct and record a beheading on ISIS' behalf:
That's the intelligence we received... The exhortations, quite direct exhortations, were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country.
One of the men, 22-year-old Omarjan Azari of Sydney, has been charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act.
"What we saw today in the operation that continues was very much about police disrupting the potential for violence against the Australian community at the earliest opportunity," Acting Comm. Andrew Colvin of the Australian Federal Police said in a press conference Thursday.