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Fed: Four remain in custody following anti-terror raids

Wed Aug 5 02:07:47 EST 2009

MELBOURNE, Aug 5 AAP - Four men remained in custody overnight awaiting further questioning over an alleged suicide plot to kill Australian soldiers at a Sydney army barracks.

Four people were arrested and more were being questioned after pre-dawn raids on 19 properties across Melbourne and regional Victoria foiled an alleged plot to attack the Holsworthy army base.

Nayef El Sayed, from Glenroy in Melbourne's north, appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court charged with conspiring with four men and other unknown people to prepare an armed attack on Holsworthy, base to several thousand troops.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) Acting Chief Commissioner Tony Negus said the men were allegedly planning a suicide shoot-out with automatic weapons.

"The men's intention was to actually go into the army barracks and to kill as many soldiers as they could before themselves, they were killed," Mr Negus told a packed media conference on Tuesday.

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

He said investigators also believed the men had links to a north African terrorist group, al-Shabaab, which has links to al-Qaeda.

Following a seven-month joint operation, 400 AFP and Victoria Police officers launched raids at 4.30am (AEST) on Tuesday on properties in suburbs in Melbourne's north, inner city Carlton and Colac in the state's southwest.

The four arrested men, who are Australian citizens of Lebanese or Somalian descent, are El Sayed and a 26-year-old Carlton man, a 25-year-old Preston man and a 22-year-old man from Meadow Heights.

Police are also interviewing a fifth man, a 33-year-old, who is already in custody in relation to other matters.

El Sayed, meanwhile, defiantly refused to stand when asked by Magistrate Peter Reardon in court on Tuesday.

El Sayed, 25, told Mr Reardon through his lawyer he stood for no man, only his own God.

Following the filing hearing, the big, bearded man, who sat between two security guards behind glass, was remanded in custody to reappear in court in October.

AFP agent David Kinton earlier told the court police believed there was a conspiracy to commit an act in preparation for terrorism.

He said there were a number of phone intercepts in which another suspect, Saney Aweyz, allegedly raised the possibility of sending men to be involved in the civil war in Somalia.

He said police had also recorded other discussions about engaging in violent activity in Australia.

Mr Kinton said text messages seized by police involving other people discussed the address of a military base in Sydney and the name of a train station.

Intercepted phone calls also revealed discussions about attempts to find an Islamic religious figure who would support a violent attack in Australia, he said.

A 35-year-old man from Lakemba, in Sydney's southwest, was assisting police with their inquiries into the alleged plot.

The counter-terrorism operation, dubbed Operation Neath, involved officers from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the AFP, Victoria Police, NSW Police and the NSW Crime Commission.