Guns seized in terror raids across region

By Farah Farouque, Dan Oakes, Vince Chadwick and Nino
Bucci

POLICE yesterday raided up to a dozen properties in suburbs including Springvale South, Endeavour Hills and Noble Park, seizing guns
and arresting one man over alleged links to home-grown Islamist terrorism.

The 23-year-old man from the outer-eastern suburb of Officer was expected to
be charged last night with collecting or making documents ”likely to facilitate
terrorist acts”.

State and federal police had seized items including a computer memory stick
containing ”violent extremist materials”, imitation firearms and ”a number”
of registered guns, police said in a statement.

The arrest was made at a neat, double-storey Officer home, which has a ‘‘for
sale’’ sign at the front. People inside the property this morning refused to
speak to Fairfax Media.

Neighbours in the modern housing development said yesterday’s raid came as a
shock.

One neighbour said he heard police knocking at the arrested man’s front door
at 6am and saw about five police cars.

He said he believed the man shared the home with his brother and their wives
and worked in insulation.

He said he did not know the arrested man but the brother was friendly.

Another neighbour, Trish Bourke, said she was taken aback by the news.

‘‘I’m a bit concerned that I’m living two doors up from a possible terrorist.
I’d rather they were caught than not, but I was still a bit surprised,’’ she
said.

She believed the brothers had lived at the property for about 18 months.

The operation, revealed exclusively last night by theage.com.au, was targeted
at individuals connected with the Al-Furqan centre in Springvale.

The group soon posted in Bosnian on its Facebook page. ”The raid took
everyone by surprise, someone calling himself Sehzad Goran wrote. ”I can
confirm that local and federal police raided [name withheld] house and prayer
place. Currently ASIO (aka, Gestapo) are still going through the house. Agents
include women agents also.”

The centre, which also hosts a bookshop, while not a mosque is associated
with fringe Muslim preacher Sheikh Harun, also known as Harun Mehicevic, who is
believed to be overseas.

The imam of the nearby Bosnian mosque in Noble Park, Ibrahim Omerdic, said
Sheikh Harun had led a group of ”radical followers” away from the Noble Park
mosque about 10 years ago.

Mr Omerdic described Sheikh Harun as a very patriotic Bosnian, but said he
had left with a small group of followers and went on to form the Al-Furqan
Islamic Centre after doctrinal disagreements.

”They radicalised matters regarding women and men. He said Muslims were not
allowed to vote,” he said.

Another community source said last night that Sheikh Harun’s ”following is
not large but his teachings are very fiery. He’s a pretty marginalised figure in
the Muslim community.”

The source said the people targeted for the operation were not believed to
have been involved in a fully realised terror plot, but were involved in
”contemplating and getting information” about terrorist activities.

A search warrant for the Al-Furqan centre says police were looking for
material relating to 11 people between the ages of 22 and 40, and information
connected to 12 addresses. They were in Narre Warren, Springvale South, Narre
Warren South, Officer, Craigieburn, Hallam, Ormond, Endeavour Hills and Noble
Park. Most of the properties were raided in the operation, which began early
yesterday.

The warrant also says police are looking for copies of the infamous
al-Qaeda-produced magazine Inspire, which reportedly nominated Sydney
as a potential terror target earlier this year. The warrant says the material
police are searching for is either connected with terrorist acts or the
collecting and making of documents that are ”likely to facilitate terrorist
acts”.

Sources said the men targeted were Australian residents of mixed cultural
backgrounds. One man whose house was raided condemned the police and
intelligence services in a Facebook posting. ”And look at the tactics. They
come early in the morning [6am] and break the door of the markaz and about 20-30
come to the door of my neighbour as well. He [the neighbour] is overseas and has
no control over what’s happening over here,” he wrote.

It is believed authorities relied in part on information provided by people
from Melbourne’s Islamic community. Police briefed the Islamic Council of
Victoria during the raids. ”I want to commend police for consulting with
community figures,” said president Ramzi Elsayed. ”We support the police in
their community safety endeavours and that [the operation was] conducted with
cultural and religious sensitivity.”

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