Photographer: William West/AFP via Getty Images

Australia Foils Plot to ‘Bring Down’ Plane, Prime Minister Says

  • Four arrested in police anti-terrorism raids in Sydney
  • Heightened security introduced at airports across nation

Australian counter-terrorism agencies have foiled a plot to “bring down” a plane in a terrorist attack, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.

Four men were arrested on Saturday night by counter-terrorism officers in raids on four Sydney properties over an alleged plot to blow up an aircraft.

“My number one priority, and that of my government, is the safety and security of all Australians,” Turnbull said. “The public should be reassured that our security and intelligence agencies are working tirelessly to keep us safe.”

Turnbull told reporters Sunday in a televised press conference that increased security screening measures had been introduced to all Australian airports.

“Some of the measures will be obvious to the public, some will not be,” he said.

Passengers should arrive at airports two hours before departure because of delays caused by extra screening, he said. Travelers were also advised to limit their carry-on and checked baggage.

Qantas Airways Ltd. said it’s working closely with the government and its airline partners to impose the stepped-up security measures.

“Australia has very strong safeguards in place at its airports; these changes are about making them even stronger,” Qantas said in an email Sunday. “We appreciate the understanding and patience of passengers as we implement these enhanced security measures.”

Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. advised passengers to expect increased security scrutiny at Australian airports, adding that customers “should not be concerned about these precautionary measures,” according to a travel alert issued Sunday.

“As the measures place an additional burden on the screening system, it may take a little longer than usual to get through the process,” the airline said.

‘Improvised Device’

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said officers became aware people in Sydney were planning to commit a terrorist attack using an “improvised device.” Colvin added that the plot was believed to be inspired by Islamic State.

“At this stage, we don’t have a great deal of information on the specific attack, the location, date or time,” he said. “However, we are investigating information indicating that the aviation industry was potentially a target of that attack.”

Turnbull said the plot seemed to be carefully planned and was likely not the work of a lone wolf.

“We face a range of terrorist threats,” Turnbull told reporters. “Some of them are lone actors, who activate very quickly with very little warning. On other occasions you get quite elaborate conspiracies. This appears to be in that category.”

The four men in custody had not been charged. None of the men worked in the airport industry, Colvin said. Police believed the alleged planned attack was aimed at the Australian aviation industry at a major airport.

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