Authorities have foiled what they say was a gruesome terror plot by Islamist extremists to behead a member of the public on camera and create fear.
Omarjan Azari, 22, appeared in a Sydney court yesterday accused of planning to carry out the grisly plot on the orders of Sydney man Mohammad Baryalei, said to be a senior recruiter for terror group Islamic State.
In Australia's biggest terror raids, more than 800 Federal and NSW police officers detained 15 people as they swooped in the early hours of the morning on 15 properties and 10 cars in 12 suburbs in Sydney's south-west and north-west.
An ornate sword emblazoned with Arabic lettering was among the items seized, as well computers and phones.
Raids were also carried out simultaneously in Brisbane on three homes, with Queensland Premier Campbell Newman alleging a man arrested last week had been planning a terror attack in Australia.
The Sydney group had been under surveillance for months.
Police believe it was actively preparing for violence but did not have any information regarding specific attacks including dates, times or locations.
"Police believe that this group that we have executed this operation on had the intention and had started to carry out planning to commit violent acts here in Australia," Australian Federal Police Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin said.
"Those violent acts particularly related to random acts against members of the public. So what we saw today and the operation that continues was very much about police disrupting the potential for violence against the Australian community at the earliest possible opportunity."
Tony Abbott praised police and security agencies for being one step ahead of evildoers. He said last week's decision to increase the terror alert level to high was not linked to the alleged plot.
Mr Azari was charged with preparing to commit a terrorist act after police raided his home at Guildford in Sydney's west at 4am. In court, the prosecution claimed Mr Azari had conspired with Mr Baryalei since May to kidnap people at random and "rather gruesomely execute" them.
Prosecutor Michael Allnutt said the plan was designed to "shock" and "horrify" the community. He said a phone call a couple of days ago triggered the arrest.
Mr Azari's lawyer Steven Boland questioned the strength of the case.
Mr Azari, an Australian citizen of Afghan descent, was not granted bail and will remain in custody.
The case was adjourned to November 13.
Another man was charged with possession of an unauthorised weapon. Two women have been notified they will be charged with unspecified offences.
Police were still executing search warrants last night.
A senior Government source confirmed to _The West Australian _ that the Government had been told the plan was to behead victims.
It has also been suggested victims would be draped in the Islamic State flag, with their beheadings to be filmed and uploaded on the internet.
Men in their teens and 20s were the target of the raids and police said more arrests could follow.
A woman claiming to be the sister-in-law of Mr Azari's family told the ABC that they have "nothing to do with terrorism".
In Brisbane, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said raids involving 70 officers were linked to a raid on an Islamic book-store in the city last week.
Mr Newman said information uncovered suggested one of the men arrested last week had been contemplating committing a terrorist act on Australian soil.
One of men, Omar Succarieh, 31, had his bail refused yesterday after prosecutors said he was a flight risk.
Mr Succarieh, whose brother Ahmed reportedly was Australia's first suicide bomber in Syria, has been charged with providing funds to the al-Qaida-linked terror organisation Jabhat al-Nusra and helping his co-accused Agim Kruezi to obtain funds to go to Syria to fight.