Sunday , May 19 2024

7 teens arrested in Sydney counter-terror raids


Bureau Report

SYDNEY: Australian police have arrested seven teenagers as part of a wave of counter-terrorism raids across Sydney, claiming it was “likely” the youths may have been plotting an attack.

The suspects are believed to share a “religiously motivated violent extremist ideology”, say police.

The raids are linked to last week’s stabbing of an Assyrian bishop, which police declared a “terrorist act”.

Police say the offenders were “juveniles” aged from 15 to 17.

Investigators allege that the teenagers belong to the same network as the 16-year-old boy who has been charged with a terror offence in relation to the stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, which occurred during a livestreamed sermon.

At least four people suffered “non-threatening” injuries after the attack in the western Sydney suburb of Wakeley. The 16-year-old was also hurt.

“From that initial (Wakeley) incident, a number of associates were identified that we believe warranted further close attention and investigation,” NSW Police Deputy Commissioner David Hudson told media on Wednesday.

Hudson said that the youths were all “linked in a common purpose” and posed an “unacceptable risk and threat” to the public. Five others are also assisting with police enquiries.

He added that all had been under surveillance following the incident at Christ The Good Shepherd Church last Monday, and that police had intercepted the group because “it was likely an attack might ensue” although no specific plan or target had been identified.

An investigation by the state’s joint counterterrorism team remains ongoing.

In total, 400 police officers were involved in Wednesday’s raids, with search warrants issued at thirteen locations across southwest Sydney.

The Christ, The Good Shepherd Church is located in Wakeley home to much of Australia’s Assyrian Christian community many of whom have fled persecution and war in Iraq and parts of Iran, Turkey and Syria.

Bishop Emmanuel who was the victim of last week’s stabbing is widely known in the community, and has a huge following online.

He is a divisive figure though, known for his ultra-conservative and often controversial views on issues such same-sex marriage and the Islamic faith. During the pandemic he also opposed government lockdowns and spoke out against vaccines.

Authorities have declined to state the religion of his alleged teenage attacker.

The day after the stabbing attack on a bishop, a forensics expert was sweeping a fingerprint brush over a nativity scene by the entrance of the Sydney church.

A small car parked outside Christ, The Good Shepherd Church had its window screen smashed in, a reminder of the horrific event that happened in the western Sydney suburb on Monday night and the mob violence that followed.

Around 19:00 that night, a 16-year-old boy emerged from the congregation of the Orthodox Assyrian Christian church to launch a frenzied attack on the bishop leading the sermon.

Allegedly yelling in Arabic “in the name of the Prophet”, he stabbed Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, and attacked another priest and churchgoers who tried to intervene.

It was all caught on a live stream beamed out over the internet to the local congregation and beyond, the news spreading quickly in Assyrian, Maronite, Catholic and Coptic Christian communities.

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