Australia: Two Arrested in 'Counter-Terror' Raids

Australian Police at Sydney Siege
Police officers position themselves at a corner near Lindt cafe in Martin Place, where hostages were held, in central Sydney on December 15, 2014. Jason Reed/Reuters

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian police said they had charged a 20-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy with conspiracy to conduct an act of terrorism after they were arrested during early-morning raids in Sydney on Thursday.

Police told a news conference the plots could have included attacks on government buildings, including the headquarters of the Australian Federal Police in Sydney, and attacks on random civilians.

Three other men, all of them already in custody on terrorism-related offences, will also be charged in connection with the raids.

The arrests on Thursday resulted partly from evidence seized during police raids in December 2014, a police statement said.

The men arrested on Thursday were involved in "formulating documents connected with preparations to facilitate, assist or engage a person to undertake a terrorist act", it said.

Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its battle against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since last year.

"It is disturbing that we continue to deal with teenaged children in this environment," New South Wales state Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said.

"To be putting a 15-year-old before the courts on very serious charges that carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment demonstrates the difficulties law enforcement face," she said.

In September 2014, police shot dead a Melbourne teenager after he stabbed two counter-terrorism officers. Last December, two hostages were killed when police stormed a central Sydney cafe to end a 17-hour siege by a lone gunman, who was also killed.

A 15-year-old boy shot and killed accountant Curtis Cheng at police headquarters in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta in October and was then killed in a gunfight with police outside the building.