CANBERRA, Australia » Police arrested a 17-year-old and accused him of plotting to detonate three homemade bombs in the Australian city of Melbourne, officials said on Saturday, in the latest terrorism scare involving a teenager.
The teen was arrested on Friday afternoon in a joint federal-state police counterterrorism operation at his home in the suburb of Greenvale where the explosive devices were found, Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Phelan said. The state police bomb squad rendered the devices safe, he said.
Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city and is the capital of Victoria state.
Last month, five Australian teenagers were arrested on suspicion of plotting an Islamic State group-inspired terrorist attack at a Veterans’ Day ceremony also in Melbourne that included targeting police officers.
"It’s deeply troubling to police that such young people in our community are becoming disaffected in the way in which they are and considering endangering the lives of many Australians," Phelan told reporters.
There were "no links at all" between that latest suspect and those arrested last month, Phelan said. Police were investigating whether the latest plot had been inspired by the Islamic State group .
Phelan said he could not confirm a media report that the plot would have targeted a charity run in Melbourne on Sunday to mark Mothers’ Day in Australia. He said police were examining evidence and going through intelligence reports to get the full picture. "But let me tell you something was going to happen," Phelan told reporters.
"Had we not intervened, there was a real threat of action being taken," he added.
The suspect will appear in the Melbourne Children’s Court on Monday on terrorism charges. His identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons.
Police had contained the plot and there was no further threat from the suspect or his colleagues to the people of Victoria, Phelan said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had been briefed that the bomb plot had been in a "reasonably advanced state of preparation."
Abbott urged Australians to keep the terrorist danger in perspective and to avoid changing their way of life.
"The best thing that you can do right now is to live your life normally because the whole point of terrorism is to scare us out of being ourselves," Abbott told reporters.
The teen was driving from his home with a woman when he was stopped by police, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Bob Hill said. Police then ordered three occupants of the house to come outside, he said. Media reported they came out with their hands up.
The boy’s father is reportedly a doctor of Syrian background. The family was unaware that bombs were stored in their two-story home.
Hill said "his family are a caring, loving family that are now very, very distraught as a consequence of what is alleged."
"It has undoubtedly taken them by surprise," Hill said.
Phelan described the homemade bombs as "very rudimentary." Their destructive capacity had yet to be assessed, he said.