Australian counterterrorism forces detained 15 people after receiving intelligence that ISIS militants were planning public beheadings in two Australian cities just days after the country raised its terror warning to the second-highest level.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that on Thursday, 800 federal and state police officers raided more than a dozen properties across 12 Sydney suburbs as part of the operation, Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin told the Associated Press, removing a sword as part of the evidence from one of the homes.
Two men were arrested as part of a terror plot that Australia's prime minister Tony Abbott said involved plans to "kidnap randomly selected members of the public off the streets in Sydney and Brisbane, behead them on camera, drape him or her in an ISIS flag, and release the recordings through Islamic State's propaganda faction in the Middle East.
"The exhortations, quite direct exhortations, were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL (Islamic State) to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country," added Abbott.
"If the ... police had not acted today, there is a likelihood that this would have happened," Attorney General Georgie Brandis told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Among those detained is 22-year-old Sydney man, Omarjan Azari, who appeared in court Thursday and is accused of conspiring with Baryalei, a 33-year-old former Sydney nightclub bouncer, and others to act in preparation for or plan a terrorist act or acts.
Prosecutor Michael Allnutt said he was involved in a "plan to commit extremely serious offenses" that was "clearly designed to shock and horrify" the public.
The raid comes mere days after Australia raised its terror alert to high as the country committed to helping the United States and a 39 other nations that agreed to contribute to the fight against ISIS.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, there is an increasing terror threat in Australia due to the influence of Austn jihadists who have gone to fight for ISIS in the Middle East and then returned home. An estimated 20 Australians had returned home after fighting in Iraq or Syria, and about 60 Australians are currently fighting with extremist groups.
The Australian government has agreed to send military advisers to Iraq, and it will deploy a number of aircraft, including fighter jets, to the United Arab Emirates, and will also help to stem the humanitarian crisis.