Australian police arrest two more men over alleged attack plot

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian police said on Wednesday they had arrested two more men in Sydney as part of an operation that thwarted a potential attack by home-grown Islamist militants last year on targets that included a navy base.

The arrests of the men, aged 24 and 20, brings to 13 the number of people arrested in the operation, New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters.

Earlier this month, police charged five people including a 15-year-old boy over the same alleged plot to attack potential targets that included the headquarters of the Australian Federal Police in Sydney and a navy base in the same city.

“We will allege in their planning that they mentioned a few locations. We are aware and we will allege that Woolloomooloo, the navy base was one of those locations,” Burn said.

“There is no specific threat, there is no current threat, there is no pending threat, and at this time of the year when we are moving into Christmas and New Year, please make sure that you go about your business,” she said.

One of the two men arrested will be charged with making a document likely to facilitate a terrorist attack. The second will be charged with conspiracy to do an act in preparation to commit a terrorist act, Burn said.

Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its battle against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since last year. Authorities say they have thwarted a number of potential attacks, although there have been several “lone wolf” assaults.

Police shot dead a Melbourne teenager in September 2014 after he stabbed two counter-terrorism officers. Last December, two hostages were killed when police stormed a central Sydney cafe to end a 17-hour siege by a lone gunman, who was also killed.

In October, a 15-year-old boy killed an accountant at police headquarters in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta. The boy was killed in a gunfight with police outside the building.

On Wednesday, Australian Border Force officials said they had detained and deported a French national who had tried to enter Melbourne just days after Islamist militants killed at least 129 people in Paris last month.

The man had been found carrying extremist material on his mobile devices and three cans of mace. Airport security had been stepped up in the wake of the Paris attacks, particularly for travelers from France and Belgium.

Editing by Richard Pullin and Paul Tait