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Xmas terror plot thwarted: federal govt

AAP logoAAP 22/12/2016

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told Australians not to be cowed by Islamic extremists after authorities thwarted a terrorist bombing planned for Melbourne on Christmas day.

The disruption of the plot following raids across the city on Friday that led to the arrest of seven people, including a woman who was later released.

Five men aged in their 20s were charged with offences related to planning a terrorist act. Three faced court on Friday afternoon and remaining two were due for their appearances on Friday night or Saturday.

Victoria Police alleged they planned to use an improvised explosive device and other weapons to attack Melbourne's Flinders Street Station, Federation Square and St Paul's Cathedral on Christmas Day.

"This news will be of great concern to all Australians," Mr Turnbull said in Sydney.

"We congregate in public places for Christmas, for New Year's Eve. It is a time of happiness and joy. These terrorists sought to disrupt it. They have been thwarted."

The police and security agencies operation comes after the recent terror attack in Berlin when a truck was driven into a crowd of people at a Christmas market, killing 12 and injuring 48.

"Islamist terrorism is a global challenge that affects us all. But we must not be cowed by the terrorists," Mr Turnbull said.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said if they had succeeded it would have been "horrendous" and could have caused "significant casualties".

Mr Keenan said that since mid-2014 there had been four terror attacks on Australian soil.

The Melbourne raids represented the 12th potential attack to have been disrupted in the past two-and-a-half years.

"But this disruption is amongst the most serious in terms of its intent," he said.

Mr Turnbull described it as one the most substantial terrorist plots in Australia in the past several years.

Four of the alleged plotters are Australian-born. The fifth was born in Egypt but lived a large part of his life in Australia, according to Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

It's believed they were self-radicalised and inspired by Islamic State and the terror group's online propaganda.

Mr Colvin said while police believed they had removed the bulk of the "cell", authorities had an interest in a number of others.

"In terms of events that we have seen over the past few years in Australia, this certainly concerns me more than any other event that we've seen," he told reporters.

"They had moved very quickly from intention to a capability, a developed capability, including quite progressive plans."

Police forces across Australia are expected boost their presence on Christmas Day to ensure the public feel safe.

Mr Keenan joined Mr Turnbull in reassuring Australians.

"We are the gold standard for what needs to be done to keep our population safe," he said.

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