Australia

Alleged Melbourne terror plot included 17,000 phone calls, 10,000 texts: Court

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Two brothers and another man have been arrested in dawn raids over a terror plot that aimed to cause mass casualties, police say.

Three men charged with plotting a terror attack in Melbourne were nabbed after an investigation spanning more than 12 months.

Phone calls, text messages and thousands of hours of recorded conversations will be key to their prosecution, a prosecutor says.

Hanifi Halis, 21, and brothers Samed Eriklioglu, 26, and Ertunc Eriklioglu, 30, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday afternoon following their arrests earlier in the day during a series of raids across northern Melbourne.

The trio was arrested after a lengthy investigation and 17,000 phone intercepts, 10,500 text messages and more than 7800 hours of recordings from listening devices will form part of the case, a prosecutor told court.

Terrorism suspect Ertunc Eriklioglu has faced court in Melbourne with two other men.
Terrorism suspect Ertunc Eriklioglu has faced court in Melbourne with two other men.
AAP

The men are each charged with one count of preparing or planning for a planning terrorist attack.

A brief of evidence is not expected to be ready for at least four months.

Peter Dutton said the new arrests prove Australia needs tougher counter-terror laws.
Peter Dutton said the new arrests prove Australia needs tougher counter-terror laws.
AAP

The accused terrorists were all remanded in custody until April, when they are due to face court again.

They have never been in custody before and Ertunc Eriklioglu sustained injuries during his arrest.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said the trio had been under investigation since March and become "much more energised" in the past week about activating the plot quickly.

"We didn't have a precise time and a precise location," Mr Ashton told reporters in Melbourne of the planned attack.

Ertunc Eriklioglu sustained injuries during his arrest.
Ertunc Eriklioglu sustained injuries during his arrest.
AAP

"They were looking at a place of mass gathering.

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (left) and Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton address the media on counter terrorism raids in Melbourne?s northwest in Melbourne, Tuesday, November 20, 2018. (AAP Image/Kaitlyn Offer) NO ARCHIVING
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (left) and Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton address the media on counter terrorism raids in Melbourne.
AAP

All three are Australians of Turkish background and had their passports cancelled by federal agencies in January, March and October.

Two of the men have no criminal history while the third was picked up in 2007 for the minor offence of failing to display L plates.

The four properties raided in a counter-terrorism operation Tuesday morning.
Four properties were raided in Melbourne's north west in a counter-terrorism operation Tuesday morning.
SBS News

AFP Assistant Commissioner Ian McCartney said the arrests were an excellent result".

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Victorian police conduct terror raids in northwest Melbourne.
Victorian police conduct terror raids in northwest Melbourne.

"If we had not acted early in preventing this attack, we will allege the consequences would have been chilling with the potential, as the commissioner stated, the potential for significant potential loss of human life," he said.

The arrests come as Melbourne prepares to farewell terror attack victim Sisto Malaspina in a state funeral on Tuesday. He was killed and two other men were injured on November 9 when 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali drove a burning ute into the city and launched a knife attack.

Police shot Shire Ali who later died in hospital.

Three men have been arrested during counter-terrorism raids in Melbourne.
Three men have been arrested during counter-terrorism raids in Melbourne.
AAP

The properties were raided under a joint counter-terrorism operation involving Victorian and Australian Federal Police and ASIO.

A fourth property was raided in Coolaroo.

Authorities say there is no ongoing threat.

Police take items from the Coolaroo home.
Police take items from the Coolaroo home.
AAP

Premier Daniel Andrews said the plot could have been "potentially deadly" had police and agencies not intervened.

"On behalf of all Victorians, I want to thank every member involved, many hundreds of officers who have put themselves in harm's way to keep all of us safe. The seriousness of this potential incident should not be underestimated. We are very grateful, all of us, as Victorians for the work that has been done."

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