Australian police say they arrested 7 people planning bombings on Christmas

(WISH Photo, file)
(WISH Photo, file)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) —Police arrested seven suspects who were allegedly planning a series of bomb attacks in the heart of Australian’s second largest city on Christmas Day, an official said Friday.

The seven men had been inspired by the Islamic State group and planned attacks on Melbourne’s Flinders Street train station, neighboring Federation Square and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Victoria state Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said.

Police had been watching the alleged plotters for some time, and believed they were preparing to use explosives and other weapons, Ashton said.

Police believed the threat had been neutralized through the raids Thursday night and Friday morning, he said.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said there will be extra police on the streets of Melbourne on Christmas Day to make the public feel safe.

Ashton said police had gathered unspecified evidence in the raids that the plotters were planning to use explosives in their attack.

“We gathered the makings of an improvised explosive device,” Ashton said.

He added: “Certainly (there was the) potential for quite a number of people to be injured or killed in this attack.”

About 400 police officers were involved in the raids.

Ashton described those arrested as “self-radicalized” and inspired by Islamic State propaganda.