A 20-year-old man from Melbourne's south-west has been arrested for allegedly trying to acquire a gun and carry out an attack on New Year's Eve. Victoria police detained the man on Monday (27 November) alleging that his plan was to "shoot as many people as he could".
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton told reporters on Tuesday that the man was planning to shoot people around Federation Square in Melbourne's central business district (CBD) during New Year's Eve celebrations. However, he was arrested in Werribee, a Melbourne suburb, before he could lay his hands on any weapon.
Federation Square is a mixed-use development in Melbourne, which is the most popular spot in the city to celebrate New Year. In 2016, around 500,000 people were present at the place to ring in 2017, according to the BBC.
According to media reports, the young suspect is a Muslim and an Australian citizen born to Somalian parents. He was reportedly connected to other extremists and Victoria police said they were monitoring him since January as he had accessed documents produced by al-Qaeda, including a "guidebook" on how to commit a terrorist act and how to use firearms.
He has been described by Victoria police as one of their "high persons of interest" and is facing charges in relation to preparing to commit a terrorist attack and collecting documents to facilitate that attack. However, more charges are likely to follow once the interrogation is complete. One of the charges reportedly carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
"We were monitoring this person. He has been subject to our active investigation and at no stage did he access a firearm — albeit that was his intention," Patton told Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"This is a person who would become particularly energised, for a lack of a better word, when overseas events occurred and would express a great deal of interest in committing an attack himself."
Patton added that there was no ongoing threat for the upcoming Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations in the state.
The arrested man's home is still being searched by police while his place of work, where he worked part-time, was also raided. Patton said it was "very much an open question" whether his relatives were also involved in his plan and refuted the speculations that the arrest was linked to any previous operation.