Australian police have announced a number of terror raids launched over the weekend were related to an “elaborate” terror plot to take down an aircraft using a bomb.
Airport security has been noticably ramped up, with Aussie airlines Qantas and Virgin Australia both issuing statements urging customers to arrive earlier than usual for their flights.
Bags are being screened more intensely, per reports, as Australia’s national terror threat level is raised to “probable”.
Police say these tougher security measures could last for many days.
Four men were arrested from five homes in Sydney suburbs of Surry Hills, Lakemba, Wiley Park and Punchbowl, with Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Andrew Colvin, explaining that a tip-off led the police to believe the men were planning a terrorist attack, using an “improvised device” to target an Australian plane, per The Guardian.
If The Daily Telegraph reports are to be believed, the terror plan intended to use a bomb disguised as a meat mincer carried in hand luggage onto a flight departing Sydney.
Other media reports have claimed it could have been a “non-traditional” device that would have released poisonous gas within the plane to target passengers.
Colvin said the threat was credible, adding, “We believe it’s Islamic-inspired terrorism. Exactly what is behind this is something we need to investigate fully”, per The Guardian.
He also said the threat was to target Australian aviation at a major airport, but that there was no evidence to suggest security had been compromised.
“Australia has some of the best, if not the best airport security arrangements in the world and we’re confident those measures are effective, and would have been effective, in this circumstance,” he said, per The Guardian.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said delays could be expected due to “enhanced and intensified” screenings and checks.
“More bags will be checked, it’s really intensifying what we’re already doing,” he said. “Some of that will be visible, some of it will not be visible.”
Both national airlines have issued statements on the tougher security measures travellers can expect.
Qantas’ statement said, “The Qantas Group (Qantas and Jetstar) is working closely with government and our airport partners to implement the increased security measures at Australian airports.
“Given the additional screening requirements, we ask passengers to arrive at the terminal two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. Passengers are also asked to limit the amount of carry-on and checked baggage where possible as this will help to ensure security screening is efficient.
“Australia has very strong safeguards in place at its airports; these changes are about making them even stronger.
“We appreciate the understanding and patience of passengers as we implement these enhanced security measures.”
Virgin Australia’s statement added, “The Australian Government has introduced additional aviation security measures for both international and domestic terminals at Australia’s major airports. These are precautionary measures.
“The travelling public can expect to experience an increased level of security scrutiny at the airport but they should not be concerned about these precautionary measures.
“As the measures place an additional burden on the screening system, it may take a little longer than usual to get through the process.
- Passengers should arrive at least 2 hours before domestic flights and 3 hours before international flights to allow time for security screening.
- Passengers should limit the amount of carry-on and checked baggage they travel with as this will help to ensure security screening is efficient.
“There are no changes to what can and cannot be carried on-board the aircraft.”
But delays and massive queues were seen from even the first flights before 6am this morning, across Australia’s major airports, as shown by Twitter users.
Pre-5am security screening – Sydney airport. pic.twitter.com/YTc3JFtSXc
— Graham Ross (@Graham__Ross) July 30, 2017
— Ricardo Goncalves (@BUSINESSricardo) July 30, 2017
— Matt (@mattchamley) July 30, 2017
Today will be very busy so please do get to the airport at least 2hrs before scheduled departure. #teamvic
— Melbourne Airport (@Melair) July 30, 2017
— iBrian (@brianinnovates) July 30, 2017
Melbourne airport is stuffed. No chance of catching this flight
— Jackson Grant (@JacksonGrant15) July 30, 2017
— Elspeth Hussey (@ElspethHussey7) July 30, 2017
Lead image: Matt Chamley Twitter