Australian police today made a series of arrests in a counter-terrorism operation after intelligence reports that the Islamic State supporters were planning a public execution in the country, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.
At least 15 people were arrested during the co-ordinated raids involving over 600 police officers across Sydney and Brisbane early this morning, with one, believed to be the mastermind, due to appear in a court.
"The exhortations, quite direct exhortations, were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country," Abbott told reporters.
"So this is not just suspicion, this is intent and that's why the police and security agencies decided to act in the way they have," he said.
The raids came just days after Australia lifted its terror warning to the second-highest level in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State which has seized hundreds of square miles in Iraq and Syria.
The suspects were reportedly planning to abduct a member of public and film their beheading, reports said.
The person charged with serious terrorism-related offences was due to appear at central Local Court in Sydney later today, Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin said.
The major counter terrorism operation commenced earlier this year and had averted a terrorist attack in Australia, Colvin said.
"Police believe that this group that we have executed this operation today had the intention and had started to carry out planning to commit violent acts here in Australia," he said.
"Those violent acts particularly related to random acts against members of the public," Colvin said, adding the raids in Brisbane were not "directly linked" to the raids in Sydney, but authorities were looking to see whether there were any links.
He said the Brisbane raids were linked to a similar operation in Queensland last week, when an Islamic bookshop was searched, and two men arrested.
According to NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, the raids reflected "the reality of the threat we actually face".
"You know it is of serious concern that right at the heart of our communities we have people that are planning to conduct random attacks," he said. "Today we work together to make sure that didn't happen. We have disrupted that particular attack."
Total of 25 search warrants were executed in the Sydney suburbs of Beecroft, Bellavista, Guildford, Merrylands, Northmead, Wentworthville, Marsfield, Westmead, Castle Hill, Revesby, Bass Hill and Regents Park, ABC reported.
Similar raids took place in Brisbane with officers conducting searches on properties at Creek Road in Mt Gravatt East, as well as Logan and Underwood.