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Australian police charge 5 teens in investigation stemming from stabbing of Sydney bishop

Three have been charged with conspiring to engage in or planning a terrorist act, police said, while two were charged with possessing or controlling violent extremist material accessed online.
Police Investigate Terror Attack At Sydney Church
A forensics officer at a suburban Sydney church on April 16, the day after a bishop was stabbed there in an attack that was streamed online.Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia — Five teenagers accused of following a violent extremist ideology have been charged with a range of offenses in an investigation that began with the stabbing of a bishop in a Sydney church, police said Thursday.

The five, ages 14 to 17, were among seven boys arrested across southwest Sydney on Wednesday in a major operation by the Joint Counter-Terrorism Team. The team includes federal and state police as well as the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the nation’s main domestic spy agency, and the New South Wales Crime Commission, which specializes in extremists and organized crime.

Two boys aged 16 and a 17-year-old have been charged with conspiring to engage in or planning a terrorist act, a police statement said. The older boy was also charged with carrying a knife in public, it said.

Two boys ages 14 and 17 were charged with possessing or controlling violent extremist material accessed online, police said.

All five remained in police custody and were scheduled to appear before a children’s court Thursday.

Two other boys arrested Wednesday have not been charged so far, police said. Three other juveniles and two men were being questioned by police but were not under arrest, police said.

More than 400 police officers executed 13 search warrants Wednesday at properties across southwest Sydney and one in Goulburn, a city about 120 miles south of Sydney.

New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner David Hudson alleged Wednesday that the arrested boys “adhered to a religiously motivated, violent extremist ideology.”

Police allege the network included the 16-year-old boy accused of stabbing an Assyrian Orthodox bishop and priest during a church service that was being streamed online April 15. That boy was charged Friday with committing a terrorist act, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The two clerics survived the attack, which was the second high-profile recent stabbing to rock Sydney. Three days earlier, a 40-year-old man with a history of mental illness and no apparent motive was shot dead by police inside a shopping mall after he killed six people and wounded a dozen others.

Police said there was no threat to Thursday’s events for Anzac Day, when thousands gather for dawn services and street marches around Australia to commemorate the nation’s war dead.

Extremists have plotted mass-casualty attacks on past Anzac Days, but police have intervened before plans were executed.

April 25 is the date in 1915 when the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the beaches of Gallipoli, in northwest Turkey, in an ill-fated campaign that was the soldiers’ first combat of World War I.