Melbourne police foil Christmas Day bombing plot
Four men linked to ISIS charged over plan to attack landmark sites in Australia
Police in Melbourne yesterday foiled a terrorist plot to detonate bombs at landmark sites in the city centre on Christmas Day.
Seven suspects, including a woman, were arrested in various suburbs, but the woman and two men were later released.
The remaining men, whom police said were inspired by the Islamic State (ISIS) group, have been charged with planning a terrorist attack.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said the detained men had planned to use explosives, knives and guns to attack busy locations including Melbourne's Flinders Street train station, Federation Square and St Paul's Cathedral in the Australian state of Victoria.
"Over the last fortnight... we have had to conduct a criminal investigation relating to the formation of what we believe was a terrorist plot," he told a press conference.
"We believe that there was an intention to conduct what we call a multi-mode attack, possibly on Christmas Day.
Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews said there will be extra police on the streets of Melbourne on Christmas Day to make the public feel safe.
Commissioner Ashton said of the accused, who are either Australian-born or citizens in their 20s: "Certainly, these are self-radicalised, we believe, but inspired by ISIS and ISIS propaganda.
"If this had got under our guard, this would have been a significant attack, we believe. No doubt about that."
They want to frighten Australians. They want to divide Australians. They want us to turn on each other. We willAustralian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
not let them succeed.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also weighed in on the plot, calling it "one of the most substantial terrorist plots that have been disrupted over the last several years".
"We will continue to go about our lives as we always have. What these criminals seek to do is to kill. But they also seek to frighten us, to cow us into abandoning our Australian way of life," Mr Turnbull was quoted as saying.
"They want to frighten Australians. They want to divide Australians. They want us to turn on each other. We will not let them succeed."
A Singaporean student in Melbourne, Miss Melanie Ho, who lives near the targeted areas, was speechless when The New Paper told her about the planned attack about five hours after the news broke.
The 20-year-old University of Melbourne student said: "I'm not sure how to react, I'm speechless. This is so scary."
Miss Ho, who has been in Melbourne for six months, describes the city as "very safe".
"It's always been safe here. Melbourne is one of the most liveable cities and I've never had any reason to be afraid till now," she said.
In its Safe Cities Index last year, Britain's The Economist named Melbourne as the ninth safest city out of 50 cities, based on factors like regional representation and availability of data.
Thousands of locals and tourists visit Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and St Paul's Cathedral, which are located near the junction of Flinders Street and St Kilda Road, daily..
Miss Grace Tan, who is also studying at the University of Melbourne, said that while she is concerned, she plans to carry on with her daily activities.
"The news that Melbourne is one of the targets does unsettle me, but life goes on.
"I still have to go to school and do my essays," said Miss Tan, who has been in Melbourne for two years.
But Miss Ho is not taking any chances.
She had planned to celebrate Christmas by having a picnic with friends in a nearby park, but she has since shelved her plans.
"I'll no longer be going out during Christmas. I'll probably stay in till I feel a bit safer," she said.
"It's better to be safe than sorry."