SYDNEY — Australia has foiled an "imminent" terror attack, arresting two men and seizing an Islamic State flag, a machete and a video detailing the plot during a raid in Sydney, police said in Wednesday.
New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn said it would be alleged that the planned attack was "consistent with the messaging coming out of IS".
Asked whether it involved a beheading, she said police were as yet unsure but that it was planned for Tuesday in Sydney and would likely have involved a knife.
"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," she said.
The men, aged 24 and 25, were arrested in a raid on a property in Sydney's western suburbs on Tuesday and have been charged with undertaking acts in preparation for a terrorist act.
"A number of items were located including a machete, a hunting knife, a home-made flag representing the proscribed terrorist organisation IS, and also a video which depicted a man talking about carrying out an attack," said Burn.
"We will allege that both of these men were preparing to do this act yesterday. We built up information, we received further information which indicated an attack was imminent. And we acted."
New South Wales state Premier Mike Baird said a potential "catastrophic" incident had been avoided.
"It was beyond disturbing, what was planned," Baird told reporters. "Certainly, something catastrophic was avoided yesterday and for that we should be very thankful."
Australia in September raised its terror threat level and carried out extensive raids in Sydney and Brisbane to disrupt an alleged plot by IS supporters to abduct and randomly behead a member of the public.
The Islamic State group is a brutal jihadist organisation that has captured swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria and sucked in increasing numbers of radicalised Australians to its cause.
In December, Sydney was rocked by a siege at a cafe by Iranian-born Man Haron Monis, a self-styled cleric with a history of extremist views.
He took 17 people hostage for some 16 hours, with the stand-off only ending after Monis shot dead cafe manager Tori Johnson, prompting police to storm the building and kill him. Another hostage died in the crossfire.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday reiterated that the incident was inspired by the Islamic State "death cult".
Burn said the men arrested on Tuesday were not previously on their radar and she did not know the exact nature of their alleged target, and whether it was the police, military or the general public.
But one of those arrested featured in the video seized.
"We can't go into the details of what was actually said in that message," she said. "However, the intent is clear and the intent is what I have told you today." — AFP