Australia Says Massive Raid Stopped ISIS Beheading Plot

Australian Federal Police say ISIS' top official from Australia ordered the kidnapping and beheading on video of at least one random citizen.

Australia Says Massive Raid Stopped ISIS Beheading Plot
New South Wales Police

Australia says a massive counterterrorism raid involving more than 800 officers — "the largest of its kind," they called it — stopped a plot to behead a member of the public.

State police covering the capital Sydney released video of the overnight raids that led to 15 arrests. They say a man aligned with ISIS called for the abductions in Sydney and Brisbane.

JON DONNISON, BBC REPORTER: "Court documents show that it involved a plot to behead a random member of the public, to drape them in an Islamic State flag and to film the whole incident on video."

So far, one man has been charged. Prosecutors say while police had been monitoring the possible plot since May, they conducted the raids after a phone call ordering the beheadings earlier this week.

ABC Australia reports the order came from Mohammed Baryalei, the man the outlet says traveled to Syria last year to fight with ISIS and has since become the most senior member of the group for Australia.

AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER ANDREW COLVIN ON ABC AUSTRALIA: "The community should have absolute confidence in the work of their law enforcement security agencies to work together."

Public confidence in police and staying calm seemed to be as large a message as the raids themselves.

Law enforcement quickly announced Operation Hammerhead to put officers in high-visibility areas and released several videos related to the raids, including thermal images from the air that more resembled what we're used to seeing from the Boston Marathon bombing suspect manhunt or air strikes in Gaza.

That's likely because, if proven, the plot police say they stopped would go beyond a simple "lone wolf" scenario feared by many countries trying to figure out how to deal with ISIS.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Australian Muslims feared further tensions after the raids and some who police talked to but didn't arrest during the raids accused them of brutality. At least one protest happened in a Sydney suburb with people holding signs that read, "Stop terrorising Muslims."

The BBC's Jon Donnison reports an Australian intelligence official told him the government believes 60 Australians are currently in Syria or Iraq fighting for ISIS with another 100 offering support from home.