SYDNEY – Australian authorities arrested a man who was allegedly planning to shoot at people coming to a landmark square in Melbourne for the New Year celebrations, police sources said Tuesday.
The arrested man, a 20-year-old Australian of Somali descent, was believed to “shoot and kill as many people as he could in the Federation Square area on New Year’s Eve,” Victoria deputy commissioner Shane Patton said.
The suspect, a Muslim and possible sympathizer of Islamic extremists, according to the official, was arrested Monday at his home in the Werribee district on the outskirts of Melbourne by Australian security forces, including the intelligence service.
As part of the operation, search missions were conducted in two other places in Victoria state in order to prevent the alleged attack in the Federation Square, the most popular place in Melbourne to see New Year’s fireworks.
“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,” said Patton, describing the terror plot as “horrendous.”
The authorities will seek to charge the man with offenses in relation to preparing to commit a terrorist act and collecting documents to facilitate a terrorist act.
According to the police, the suspect had access to documents produced by al Qaeda, including a guidebook on how to commit a terrorist act and how to use firearms.
Australian authorities last raised the terrorist alert in the country in September 2014 and have passed a series of laws to prevent possible attacks.
Australia has suffered four attacks since then, although several attack plots have been aborted with dozens of suspects arrested nationwide.