Counter terrorism police in Australia have alleged that two of the five men they arrested in an operation in the Victoria state capital of Melbourne today were planning an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack on an Anzac Day ceremony and march next weekend.
The arrests followed a dawn raid on properties in various outlying Melbourne suburbs by Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police. They executed seven search warrants at 4am on Saturday, the culmination of Operation Rising.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said it was believed the attacks were to have involved the use of “edged knives”.
“It is alleged both men were undertaking preparations for a terrorist attack at an Anzac Day activity in Melbourne which included targeting police officers,” he said.
Anzac Day is an Australian and New Zealand commemoration for the military dead of all wars held annually on April 25. Traditionally every city and country town in both nations holds a march of veterans on what is a declared public holiday signified by a dawn service and wreath laying ceremonies at memorial cenotaphs.
This year it takes special significance as it remembers the landings of the initial ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) formation that went ashore at Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915. It was part of an ill-fated attempt to advance on Istanbul in what became known as the Dardanelles Campaign.
Although Gallipoli was a disaster that ended in humiliating withdrawal it did launch a legend. The amphibious assault was the first time Australia and New Zealand had fought together in a major battle and 100 years later still retains the power of a core myth that announced the arrival of both nations on the world stage.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott is urging Australians not to allow the terror threats to deter them from attending Anzac Day commemorations.
He said Australians should attend ceremonies in the “largest possible numbers”.
“The best thing you can do in the face of those who would do us harm is live your life normally,” he said. “The best sign of defiance we can give to those who would do us harm is to go about a normal, peaceful free and fair Australian life.”