Two Queensland men will be charged with recruiting soldiers to fight in Syria after an extraordinary counter-terrorism operation involving 180 police.
The brother of a suspected Australian suicide bomber has been arrested for recruiting foot soldiers in the battle to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Omar Succarieh is one of two men who’ll be charged with organising incursions into Syria after a series of raids in Brisbane and Logan on Wednesday, following a year-long counter-terrorism investigation.
Police say there’s nothing to suggest the men were planning a terrorist attack in Australia, nor was there any threat to the upcoming G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane in November.
But they said police had to proceed with the raids on Wednesday, in the interests of public safety, after finding one of the men with a gun and crossbow.
Succarieh, 31, is the brother of Ahmed Succarieh, an Australian reported to have committed a suicide bombing in Syria.
It’s alleged the two Brisbane men were connected to the Sunni extremist group Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist group banned in Australia that is fighting to defeat the al-Assad regime.
AFP National Manager Counter Terrorism Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said there was nothing to connect the men to the jihadist Islamic State movement.
“This has got nothing to do with Islam. This is criminal behaviour by Australians involved in terrorist activity,” Mr Gaughan said.
In an extraordinary police operation, about 180 federal and Queensland police raided nine properties in Logan and Brisbane, including the iQraa Islamic Centre, in the Logan suburb of Underwood.
Succarieh, and the other man arrested, a 21-year-old from Logan, were both linked to the centre, where police seized evidence on Wednesday.
Photos taken by media outlets at the scene showed an arrow and styrofoam head pockmarked with puncture holes.
Mr Gaughan said seized electronic records would be crucial to the ongoing investigation, adding there were no other suspects in Australia.
But he said there were links to Syria and the investigation was ongoing.
The raids come as Australia weighs whether its terror threat level should be raised from medium to high, meaning an attack on home soil is considered likely.
“We’ve moved upwards above moderate, but whether we are yet at wanting to say it is high or extreme is obviously a big step,” Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said on Wednesday.
“One of the things we obviously need to look at is whether there ought to be interim steps available so we can make incremental changes to our terror threat assessments as our situation worsens.”
Federal police assured Australians everything was being done to keep the nation safe amid the heightened threats.
“The appropriate mechanisms for dealing with the increase in the terrorism alert – increasing our patrols, looking at security at airports – they’re tried and tested and I’m comfortable that we’ll be in a position to respond accordingly,” Mr Gaughan said.
THE ACCUSED AND THE CHARGES:
Omar Succarieh, 31, from the Brisbane suburb of Kuraby
- To be charged with providing funds to the terrorist organisation Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, under the Criminal Code Act of 1995
- To be charged with preparing incursions into Syria with the intention of engaging in hostile activity, under the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978
A Boronia Heights man, 21
- To be charged with preparing incursions into Syria with the intention of engaging in hostile activities
- To be charged with recruiting persons to engage in hostile activities in Syria under the 1978 laws