Australian police arrested five teenagers in Melbourne on Saturday for planning an Islamic State group-inspired attack on a national holiday, authorities said. The men had planned to attack police officers in the southern city of Melbourne during the Anzac Day holiday on April 25.
Senior police officials reportedly confirmed that the men were aged 18 and 19, and authorities had found "edged weapons" including a sword and knife during the raids. Over 200 police officers were involved in a series of raids in the early hours of Saturday. Authorities reportedly said that the men were under surveillance and were arrested after police were informed about a specific threat.
"There were a series of raids in metropolitan Melbourne. Five people were arrested," Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters, according to Reuters. "Two will be charged with preparing a terrorist act."
"The act that we believe was in preparation involved attacks against police officers on Anzac Day."
Anzac Day is a major holiday that marks the landing of troops from Australia and New Zealand on the Gallipoli peninsula during World War I. Abbott reportedly urged the public to attend Anzac Day centenary commemorations, adding that there would be strong police presence across the country.
"The best thing you can do in the face of those who would do us harm is to live your life normally," Abbott reportedly said. “I want to assure people that everything authorities can do to keep you safe is being done."
Authorities reportedly said that all five suspects are "associates" of Abdul Numan Haider, an ISIS sympathizer who was shot dead by police in Melbourne in September after he stabbed police officers.
Two of the men, both 18 from Hallam and Hampton Park, “are likely to be charged with a number of offences relating to preparing for and acting on an terrorist act and possessing prohibited items," Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan reportedly said on Saturday.
Australia, which is part of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq, has been on high alert after a string of terrorist attacks on its soil.
In December, 18 people were held hostage by gunman Man Horan Monis, a 50-year-old, self-described Muslim cleric, inside a café in Sydney’s Martin Place and had demanded that a flag of the Islamic State group be delivered to him. He was killed after a nearly 16-hour standoff that also claimed the lives of two hostages. However, investigators believe that Monis did not have any contact with ISIS before the siege. ISIS has praised Monis' actions and encouraged more attacks.