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Police foil terror attack in Australia -

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ELEANOR HALL: We go first to Victoria and the latest on the massive counter-terrorism operation

Police raided 19 properties across the state in the early hours of this morning to interrupt what
could have been the biggest terrorist attack on Australian soil.

Four people have been arrested so far over an alleged plan to carry out suicide attacks at
Australian defence bases. Another is being questioned. And police have confirmed one of the group
has now been formally charged with planning a terrorist act.

The men are accused of having links to an extremist organisation in Somalia.

Police briefed the media after the raids and said that officers have been monitoring the suspects'
movements since the beginning of this year.

In Melbourne, Lexi Metherell reports.

LEXI METHERELL: At 4:30 this morning 400 police officers swooped on 19 properties across Melbourne
and in the west Victorian town of Colac.

One of the houses raided was in the suburb of Glenroy, about half an hour's drive north of
Melbourne's CBD.

Unmarked vans crammed into a cordoned off section of a street as police carried out a search and
questioned a man and a woman.

Stunned neighbours stood outside in their pyjamas watching the scene, saying they'd never noticed
anything suspicious on their street.

EMILY: It's shock, because you wouldn't really think that you have a potential terrorist living in
your street, do you know what I mean? But in a sense it's good because now the police, the Federal
Police are kind of on it.

SCOTT: It's good they've caught them, so yeah... but it's a shock, it's a quiet little street.

LEXI METHERELL: Victoria's police commissioner Simon Overland gave a joint press conference this
morning with the AFP's acting commissioner, Tony Negus.

TONY NEGUS: Potentially this would have been, if it had been able to be carried out, the most
serious terrorist attack on Australian soil.

LEXI METHERELL: Today's raids were the culmination of a seven month joint investigation by ASIO,
the AFP, Victorian and New South Wales Police

One hundred and fifty officers had been tapping phones and carrying out surveillance of the group,
reportedly of 18 men, as part of an investigation called Operation Neath.

The men had allegedly been spying on the Holsworthy defence base in Sydney's west and there'd been
suspicious activity around other bases, reportedly in Victoria,

Victoria's police commissioner Simon Overland won't say whether an attack was imminent but says
police had arrived at a point where they thought it was time to act.

SIMON OVERLAND: The primary concern is public safety so if there's any risk to public safety or we
believe there is unmanageable risk to public safety then obviously we're going to act and I'm not
saying that's the case in this instance, but that is the primary concern.

But it is a balancing act. If we move too soon and we don't have the evidence then obviously the
charges won't be successful.

LEXI METHERELL: Four men from suburban Melbourne have been arrested - a 22-year-old from Meadow
Heights, a 25-year-old from Preston, a 25-year-old from Glenroy and a 26-year-old Carlton man.

Police aren't ruling out further arrests with others being questioned, and as investigations
continue here and overseas.

Police have accused the men of planning suicide attacks with automatic weapons, but no bombs, on
defence bases in Australia.

One of the targets was the Holsworthy base, but police won't say where the other targets were or
what they've seized in the raids so far. Tony Negus.

TONY NEGUS: What we'll allege in courts today is the men's intention was to actually go into these
- to the army barracks, and to kill as many soldiers as they could before themselves, they were

LEXI METHERELL: The men under investigation are of Somali and Lebanese descent.

It's alleged some had travelled to Somalia to take part in the insurgency against the Somali
Government, and had links to the extremist group Al Shabab.

The counter-terrorism operation and this morning's raids were revealed in a front page article in
The Australian newspaper. The leak has outraged Simon Overland.

SIMON OVERLAND: The AFP negotiated with The Australian newspaper as I'm advised in terms of having
the story run today. I am concerned that despite those negotiations copies of that paper I'm told
were available on the streets here in Melbourne at 1:30am this morning, well before the warrants
were actually executed.

This in my view represents an unacceptable risk to the operation, an unacceptable risk to my staff.

LEXI METHERELL: The AFP's Tony Negus says he didn't expect the paper to be available so early.

But the journalist who broke the story, Cameron Stewart, has told ABC Local Radio in Melbourne, the
AFP were comfortable with the situation.

CAMERON STEWART: They requested that we don't publish because it might compromise the operation,
that was what their feeling was, and so we said fine so we stood back and we hadn't published until
we were given an indication as to what appropriate date to publish was.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Cameron Stewart a journalist with The Australian newspaper, ending that report
by Lexi Metherell.