Australian authorities say they foiled a large-scale terrorist attack, arresting 15 people in raids in Sydney and Melbourne Nov. 7. Among the arrrested is Muslim cleric Abu Bakr, who had earlier this year stated his support for Osama bin Laden. One suspect who had been under surveillance was shot and wounded after he had allegedly fired at officers near Sydney’s Green Valley Mosque. “I am satisfied that we have disrupted what I would regard as the final stages of a large-scale terrorist attack, or the launch of a large-scale terrorist attack here in Australia,” New South Wales Police Commissioner Ken Moroney said. Australia’s parliament rushed through amendments to anti-terror laws Nov. 3 to allow police to charge people suspected in the early stages of planning an attack. (Stuff.co, NZ, Nov. 7)
It is uncertain if the injured man will survive. Justice Minister Chris Ellison told federal parliament “it will be alleged that the offender shot at police, to which police responded, shooting him in the neck and chest and I understand his position remains critical.” (SMH, Nov. 8)
Nov. 7 also saw coordinated rallies in several Australian cities against the changes to the terror law, and demanding a withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq. (World Forum, Nov. 7) On Oct. 31, a small group of protesters interrupted a session of the Australian parliament in Canberra, chanting anti-war slogans and showering the chamber with leaflets. (UPI, Oct. 31)
Australia, a staunch US ally with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been on medium security alert since shortly after 9-11, despite having never suffered a major terror attack on its soil. The country has seen an ugly backlash against the terror attacks in Indonesia, in which several Australians have been killed.