Seven teens with alleged 'extremist ideology' arrested in Sydney raids

Police cordon off surrounding areas at Westfield Bondi Junction on April 14, 2024 in Bondi Junction
File photo of police in Sydney [Getty Images]

Australian police have arrested seven teenagers as part of a wave of counter-terrorism raids across Sydney, claiming it was "likely" the youths may have been plotting an attack.

The suspects are believed to share a "religiously motivated violent extremist ideology", say police.

The raids are linked to last week's stabbing of an Assyrian bishop, which police declared a "terrorist act".

Police say the offenders were "juveniles" aged from 15 to 17.

Investigators allege that the teenagers belong to the same network as the 16-year-old boy who has been charged with a terror offence in relation to the stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, which occurred during a livestreamed sermon.

At least four people suffered "non life-threatening" injuries after the attack in the western Sydney suburb of Wakeley. The 16-year-old was also hurt.

"From that initial [Wakeley] incident, a number of associates were identified that we believe warranted further close attention and investigation," NSW Police Deputy Commissioner David Hudson told media on Wednesday.

Mr Hudson said that the youths were all "linked in a common purpose" and posed an "unacceptable risk and threat" to the public. Five others are also assisting with police enquiries.

He added that all had been under surveillance following the incident at Christ The Good Shepherd Church last Monday, and that police had intercepted the group because "it was likely an attack might ensue" although no specific plan or target had been identified.

An investigation by the state's joint counterterrorism team remains ongoing.

In total, 400 police officers were involved in Wednesday's raids, with search warrants issued at thirteen locations across southwest Sydney.

The Christ The Good Shepherd Church is located in Wakeley - home to much of Australia's Assyrian Christian community - many of whom have fled persecution and war in Iraq and parts of Iran, Turkey and Syria.

Bishop Emmanuel - who was the victim of last week's stabbing - is widely known in the community, and has a huge following online.

He is a divisive figure though, known for his ultra-conservative and often controversial views on issues such as same-sex marriage and the Islamic faith. During the pandemic he also opposed government lockdowns and spoke out against vaccines.

Authorities have declined to state the religion of his alleged teenage attacker.