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SYDNEY, Australia – Anti-terror police narrowly averted a “disturbing” ISIS-linked plot to publicly maim or kill somebody with a hunting knife and machete, police and public officials said Wednesday.
Two men, aged 24 and 25, were arrested after a raid on a home in a western Sydney suburb where the knives were seized along with a video and a flag associated with the Islamist militant terror group.
Australia, a staunch ally of the United States, has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown Islamist radicals. It raised its terror threat level to "high" in September after receiving information that ISIS supporters planned a public beheading.
Police said the pair had been preparing to carry out their attack on Tuesday.
New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn did not confirm that the men planned a beheading and would not give details about what was on the video, but said the plot was "consistent with [ISIS] messaging.”
New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said a potentially "catastrophic" terrorist attack had been avoided.
"It was beyond disturbing, what was planned," Baird told reporters, according to SBS. "Certainly, something catastrophic was avoided yesterday and for that we should be very thankful."
Australia believes at least 70 of its citizens are fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
"Regrettably there are those out there, some living in our midst, who would do us harm — but your government, at every level, will do whatever we humanly can to keep you safe," Australian PM Tony Abbott told reporters in New South Wales.
In December, two hostages were killed when policed stormed a central Sydney cafe to end a 17-hour siege.
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Reuters contributed to this report