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Three arrested over central Sydney 'terror plots'

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    Agence France-Presse

Sydney   /   Tue, July 2, 2019   /   01:02 pm
Three arrested over central Sydney 'terror plots' The Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the ferris wheel are seen before being plunged into darkness from Sydney's Luna Park for the Earth Hour environmental campaign on March 30, 2019. (AFP/Peter Parks)

Australian police on Tuesday arrested three men accused of links to the Islamic State group over an alleged plot to attack police stations, embassies and defense facilities in central Sydney.

The men -- aged 20, 23 and 30 -- were arrested in raids in the city's suburbs after their online activities raised suspicion.

Two of them will face charges of being members of a terrorist organization and of preparations to carry out terror attacks.

"We will say that they had a number of targets, including police stations, defense establishments, embassies and councils, courts and churches," Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Ian McCartney told reporters.

The plots were said to be in the "early stages", but included moves to import weapons and explosives to target facilities in the central business district.

The third man -- described as an "associate" -- will be charged with lesser offenses.

New South Wales police assistant commissioner Mick Willing said the men "knew each other via social media" including WhatsApp and Telegram, and shared a "like-minded philosophy".

Late last year, Australia passed controversial laws allowing spy agencies and police to access encrypted communications from suspected criminals and terrorists.

Police said one of the suspects had come under the watch of authorities after returning from Lebanon last year, alleging he had made plans to go to Afghanistan to fight with the Islamic State.

Police said there was no further threat to the public.