An 18-year-old teenager was arrested in north-western Sydney by Federal and New South Wales police for allegedly planning an ‘imminent’ terrorist act. Tamim Khaja, of Macquarie Park in Sydney’s north-west, was arrested from his home in Parramatta at about 10:00am.
The teen was a former student at Epping Boys High School and last year, was investigated by counter-terrorism police after allegedly preaching radical Islam at the school. In February, the boy was stopped at Sydney airport when he attempted to travel to Syria. His passport was cancelled and he was prevented from leaving the country.
Since then, the teen had been under police surveillance. After his arrest, NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said the arrest had prevented an attack, which was ‘probably imminent’. Khaja was allegedly looking for “possible sites in Sydney to undertake a terrorist attack and was making arrangements to acquire a firearm”.
Burn also said that though Khaja has associations with some suspicious characters, he was acting alone in this alleged plot. She said police monitoring had culminated in his arrest, but denied giving any specific details about Khaja’s plans.
“We have taken swift action to ensure the safety of the community and we are satisfied that any threat to the community posed by this individual has been mitigated,” she said.
Khaja is expected to be charged with planning a terror attack and another charge of preparing to enter a foreign country to engage in hostile activities was expected to be filed in connection with the earlier attempt by the teen to travel to Syria.
If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison. Khaja’s lawyer Osman Samin said bail would be applied for in due course.
Australian government raised the country’s terror threat level in 2014 in response to local support of the Islamic State. Police conduct dozens of raids to thwart terror plots in and around Australia. An alleged plan to attack government buildings and a naval base in Sydney was foiled in a timely manner.
Many of those arrested have been youngsters including a 16-year-old who was charged with plotting a terrorist attack on Australian Veteran’s Day ceremony in April.
Deputy Commissioner Burn said the arrest today had kept the community safe, but unfortunately the attack planners are getting younger and younger. “We are still seeing people planning and preparing for such attacks and unfortunately that group of people are getting younger and younger,” she said.
In recent years there has been rise in Australian teenagers leaving the country to fight in the Middle East after joining Islamic extremist movements or carrying out or planning to carry out terror attacks within the country.
Deputy Commissioner Burn said the police could not tackle the risk of youth radicalization alone and it can very well be done by support of families, schools and community groups.