An apparent plot to publicly behead a random civilian on the streets of Sydney in support of ISIS sparked counter-terrorism raids backed by nearly 1,000 Australian police, officials said Thursday. Australian Federal Police said 15 people were arrested in relation to “serious terrorism-related offenses” in a massive pre-dawn operation. Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters that the raids came after intelligence showed an Australian occupying a “quite senior” rank within ISIS was making “direct exhortations” for supporters back home to kill. When asked about reports that those detained had been planning to publicly behead a random individual, "that's the intelligence we received," Abbott said. “This is not just suspicion, this is intent, and that's why the police and security agencies decided to act."
Police served 25 search warrants in relation to Thursday’s operation investigating a group of people who police believe were “actively preparing” to carry out terrorist attacks. One man detained in the predawn raids – 22-year-old Omarjan Azari – appeared in court Thursday. Prosecutor Michael Allnutt said Azari was involved in a plan to "gruesomely" execute a random person, The Associated Press reported.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.