UPDATE @ 8.30am: Victoria Police have arrested several people, believed to have been planning an alleged terror attack in Melbourne on Christmas Day.
At a news conference on Friday morning, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton confirmed officers had arrested seven people who they allege were planning a “multi-mode” attack at some of the city’s most iconic destinations.
“Over the last fortnight, we have had to conduct a criminal investigation relating to the formation of what we believe was a terrorist plot,” Mr Ashton said.
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“We believe that there was an intention to conduct what we call a multi-mode attack, possibly on Christmas Day.”
Commissioner Ashton said locations believed to be a target included Federation Square, Flinders St Station and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Of the seven people arrested, five remain in custody and are currently being questioned. They are expected to be charged with acts in preparation of a terrorist event.
“These are self-radicalised but inspired by ISIS and ISIS propaganda,” Mr Ashton said.
He also acknowledged that the planned attack, believed to involve explosives and other weapons, could have been potentially deadly.
“We gathered the makings of an improvised explosive device,” Mr Ashton said.
“A substantial number of people could have been injured in the attack, from what we’ve seen.
“Certainly potential for quite a number of people to be injured or killed in this attack.”
There will be an extra police presence on the streets of Melbourne this weekend, at the Boxing Day test and over the new year period, however people have been urged people to go about their everyday lives with police stating that the overnight arrests have neutralised the threat.
Of those arrested, four are Australian-born of Lebanese background.
“The age groups range between 20 and 24 or 25. There is another suspect in this matter who will be charged that was an Egyptian-born Australian citizen. All the others were Australian-born,” Commissioner Ashton said.
— 7 News Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) December 22, 2016
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed the country this morning, condemning those responsible for the terror plot.
“This is one of the most substantial terrorist plots that has been disrupted over the past several years,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We congregate in public places for Christmas, for New Year’s Eve. It is a time of happiness and joy. These terrorists sought to disrupt it. They have been thwarted.”
Additional reporting by Shanee Dobeson.
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EARLEIR @ 6.20am: There are reports several people have been arrested following terrorism related raids across Melbourne overnight.
A series of police raids have been going on across inner Melbourne since around 8.00pm on Thursday but state and federal police won’t say what they’re about.
Victoria Police confirmed it is raiding properties in Flemington on Friday morning, but could give no other details.
Australian Federal Police deferred all comment to Victoria Police.
Seven News claims several people have been arrested and the raids relate to possible attacks on police in the state but police have refused to confirm what the raids are related to.
Police are expected to confirm the details later this morning.
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) December 22, 2016