Three Sydney men were arrested this morning as part of a NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) investigation targeting a group of people alleged to support the Islamic State terrorist organisation.
Police executed a total of six search warrants this morning in the western Sydney suburbs of Greenacre, Toongabbie, Chester Hill, Ingleburn, Green Valley and Canada Bay. Activity at a number of these locations may continue throughout today and into tomorrow.
The NSW JCTT comprises representatives from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), NSW Police Force, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the NSW Crime Commission.
A 20-year-old man from Greenacre is expected to be charged with one count of acts in preparation for a terrorist act, contrary to section 101.6 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), and one count of engage in preparations for incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities, contrary to section 119.4(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty for these offence is life imprisonment.
It will be alleged in court that the man had made early-stage preparations and had expressed an intention to carry out a terrorist attack in Australia. The man allegedly indicated a range of targets, which included prominent Sydney landmarks and locations, but had not selected a specific target or time to do so.
NSW JCTT investigators and partner agencies worked diligently during this investigation to ensure the safety of the community, and did not identify any specific and impending threat. It will further be alleged that the Greenacre man had indicated a willingness to travel to Afghanistan to fight with Islamic State.
The Greenacre man and a 23-year-old from Toongabbie are expected to be charged with being a member of a terrorist organisation, namely Islamic State, contrary to section 102.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years imprisonment.
It will be alleged in court that both men identified as members of Islamic State to other like-minded people. It will also be alleged the Toongabbie man was prominent in the global online extremist community.
A 30-year-old Chester Hill man – an associate of the other two men – is expected to be charged obtaining a financial benefit by deception, namely fraudulently claiming Commonwealth unemployment benefits, contrary to section 134.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years imprisonment.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Ian McCartney, National Manager Counter Terrorism, said this investigation highlighted the effectiveness of law enforcement and intelligence agencies working together.
“The JCTT is committed to using the powers of all partner agencies to target people whose criminal activities pose a threat to the Australian community,” he said.
“The tireless efforts of the JCTT members over the past 12 months have allowed us to collect evidence of the activities of two men, who will now facing serious terrorism charges, and ensure that any possible threat to the community was safely mitigated and disrupted.”
NSW Police Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing, said the primary threat of terrorism comes directly from individuals with extremist ideologies, but the secondary threat is their ability to influence others – particularly through the internet.
“The online environment provides fast and easy access to information and, unfortunately, those benefits are also being exploited by extremists, who use digital technologies to exist ‘virtually’ if their physical existence is under threat,” Assistant Commissioner Willing said.
“Much of the NSW JCTT’s work includes investigation into online activities, and while we have seen success – including today’s arrests – we continue to appeal to the community for assistance to ensure the safety of all Australians.”
All three men are expected to appear before Parramatta Local Court today or tomorrow once charging processes are completed. Further updates will be provided as they become available.
Anyone with information about extremist activity or possible threats to the community should come forward, no matter how small or insignificant you may think that information may be. The National Security Hotline is 1800 123 400.