SYDNEY: Australia announced Friday the deployment of armed police inside parliament in the face of threats from extremists after foiling a plot by Islamic State jihadists for “demonstration executions” in the country.
“There will be armed federal police in and around our national parliament at all times,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a press conference.
“Earlier this month I was advised of chatter among these terrorist networks of a potential attack on government, government people, parliament house.”
He said he ordered an urgent security review in response which recommended tighter measures at parliament in the capital Canberra.
“Implementation is now taking place and as a result of that Australian Federal Police will be in charge of not just the external security of parliament house but the internal security as well.”
Previously security was handled by in-house parliamentary security officers.
Abbott backed away from comments made earlier in the day suggesting that he himself was a specific target.
He said he was “not aware that specific individuals have been named … but certainly government, government people, and parliament have been referred to.”
Abbott said he was not concerned about his own safety.
“I am concerned for the safety of the Australian people. It’s not about me … it’s about the safety of the Australian people.”
His remarks came after hundreds of police officers staged a pre-dawn operation across Sydney and Brisbane on Thursday.
Of the 15 people detained, one has been charged with terrorism-related offences and nine released, police said.
At least one gun was seized, along with a sword
Abbott said an attack had been feared “within days” and police investigations were continuing Friday with more people expected to be charged.
Omarjan Azari, 22, was remanded in custody Thursday, charged with planning a terrorist act that prosecutors alleged was designed to “shock, horrify and terrify” the community.
The prosecution alleged the plan involved the “random selection of persons to rather gruesomely execute” on camera.
The jihadists have in recent weeks broadcast video footage of three foreign nationals being beheaded in Syria.
The raids came a week after Australia lifted the terror threat level to “high” for the first time in a decade on growing concern about militants returning from fighting in Iraq and Syria.
Abbott expanded on his comments Thursday that public beheadings had been ordered by IS militants.