By Charlene Macaulay
A 20-year-old Werribee man has been arrested in a counter-terrorism raid after police uncovered an alleged plot to shoot and kill as many people as possible at Federation Square on New Year’s Eve.
The man was arrested by the Special Operations Group on the corner of Synnot and Bridge streets in Werribee just after 3pm on Monday as part of Operation San Jose, which had been monitoring the “high risk” man since the beginning of this year.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said the Australian-born man, who was born to Somali parents, is believed to have unsuccessfully tried to obtain an automatic rifle to carry out the attack.
Star Weekly went to press, he was being interviewed by police in relation to the offences of ‘Acts in preparation to commit a terrorist attack’ and ‘Collecting documents to facilitate a terrorist act’, and was expected to be charged once the interview process had concluded. One of the charges he is facing carries a penalty of life in prison.
“What we will be alleging is that he intended to use a firearm to shoot and kill as many people as he could in the Federation Square area on New Years’ Eve,” Deputy Commissioner Patton said.
“This male did not access a firearm, I think it’s very important that I provide that reassurance to the public.
“He’s accessed documents produced by
Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula, which is a guidebook in respect to how to commit a terrorist act, and also how to use firearms.
“The arrest means that this threat has been removed.
“We’re quite confident that there’s no risk, or no threat, to the Victorian community now that we have removed him from society and he’s being interviewed.”
The Special Operation Group executed three search warrants – one at his Werribee address, a Footscray computer business where he had worked part-time and a Meadow Heights address associated with him on Monday.
He shares the Werribee home with his parents and siblings.
“Understanding who had what knowledge, and who may or may not have been involved
is one of the key aspects that we have to deal with in respect to this investigation, so that’s still very much an open question that we’re exploring in respect to his family and friends and relatives,” Deputy Commissioner Patton said.
Police believe the man is associated with other people in the Victorian extremist community, but he is believed to be acting alone in this plot.
Deputy Commissioner Patton said more than 220 police from Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation had been involved in the investigation.