Trio charged with terror offences following arson attacks at Melbourne mosque
Three men have been charged with terrorism offences following a series of arson attacks at a mosque in Melbourne's north last year.
Two men, aged 25 and 27, have been charged with engaging in a terrorist act over a serious fire at the Imam Ali Islamic Centre in Fawkner, on December 11, Victoria police said on Sunday.
They are already in custody and awaiting trial for planning an attack on or around Christmas day last year.
At press conference on Sunday the Australian Federal Police said the men were "inspired by Islamic State" and possessed "extremist ideology".
A third man, a 29-year-old from Meadow Heights, has also been charged with engaging in a terrorist act for allegedly causing an earlier fire at the Imam Ali Islamic Centre, on 25 November 2016.
He was arrested after his car was pulled over by police in Roxburgh Park late on Saturday.
In light of the arrests, police confirmed there was "no ongoing threat to the community”.
Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Counter Terrorism Ian McCartney said police were satisfied the individuals linked to the arson attacks at the Islamic Centre have been identified and no further arrests were expected in relation to the matter.
He added that attacking a place of worship was a serious crime.
"It is clear that these arson attacks were designed to intimidate and influence those that attend this mosque and the wider Islamic community. These actions have no place in our society," Assistant Commissioner McCartney said.
“Individuals or groups who think they are above the law when it comes to this type of intimidation should think again.
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He said the arrests were a result of a collaborative approach between joint counter terrorism agencies.
"We are committed to doing everything we can to keep all Australians safe,” Assistant Commissioner McCartney said.
Victoria Police Counter Terrorism Command Assistant Commissioner Ross Guenther said this represents the high quality of effort delivered by the tri-agency set up in Melbourne.
“The partnership between Victoria Police, the AFP and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which makes up the JCTT continues to achieve excellent results in protecting the Victorian community.
“Victoria Police is proud to serve a diverse multi-faith and multicultural community, and will not tolerate this kind of behaviour in our community.”
All three men are expected to be charged later today and face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for these offences.
In light of recent international terror attacks, there will be additional frontline police presence at Melbourne sporting events this weekend, Assistant Commissioner Guenther confirmed.
“We want people to go out and enjoy the things that they do. We don’t want things like this to impair that.
“We encourage the Victorian community to go out and do what they would normally do,” he said.
The charges come as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reveals a counter-terrorism strategy to stop vehicle attacks similar to those recently seen in Barcelona, Nice, and London.
The plan, called Australia's Strategy For Protecting Crowded Places From Terrorism, was given to Australian businesses and councils last week, and outlines ways to prevent vehicle attacks by installing bollards and planters to businesses, councils and private operators.