A series of anti-terror raids across Sydney and Brisbane were sparked by a senior Islamic State militant ordering "demonstration killings" in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Thursday.
"The exhortations, quite direct exhortations, were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country," he said.
"So this is not just suspicion, this is intent and that's why the police and security agencies decided to act in the way they have." A major pre-dawn operation by more than 800 officers detained 15 people. So far one person has been charged with serious terrorism-related offences.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said court documents were expected to reveal that the plan involved snatching a random member of the public in Sydney, draping them in an Islamic State flag and beheading them on camera.
"These people, I regret to say, do not hate us for what we do, they hate us for who we are and how we live. That's what makes us a target," said Abbott.
"It's important our police and security organisations be one step ahead of them and this morning they were."