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Australia ramps up airport security after alleged plane bomb plot

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Stricter screening of passengers and luggage at Australian airports will stay in place indefinitely after police foiled an alleged “Islamic-inspired” plot to bring down a plane, which local media said may have involved a bomb or poisonous gas.

The ramped up security procedures were put in place after four men were arrested at the weekend in raids conducted across several Sydney suburbs.

The men are being held without charge under special terror-related powers.

The Australian Federal Police would not confirm media reports the alleged plot may have involved a bomb disguised in a meat grinder or the planned release of poisonous gas inside a plane.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Andrew Colvin told reporters on Monday that the plot specifics were still being investigated.

“What you are seeing at the moment is making sure that there is extra vigilance, to make sure that we aren’t cutting any corners in our security, to make sure that we are absolutely focussed on our security,” Colvin said.

Police on Monday were still searching several Sydney properties for evidence . Pictures showed forensic-specialist officers wearing masks and plastic jumpsuits inside the properties and combing through rubbish bins outside.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton told reporters in Melbourne on Monday that the alleged plot to down an aircraft could prompt longer-term airport security changes.

“The security measures at the airports will be in place for as long as we believe they need to be, so it may go on for some time yet,” said Dutton.

Australian police search items seized from a property during a raid in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba, Australia, July 31, 2017 . AAP/Paul Miller/via REUTERS

“It may be that we need to look at the security settings at our airports, in particular our domestic airports, for an ongoing enduring period,” he said.

Dutton advised passengers to arrive at airports three hours before international flights and two hours for domestic flights in order to clear the heightened security.

Inter-state travellers are subjected to far less scrutiny than those travelling abroad with no formal identification checks required for domestic trips.

Passengers at major Australian airports, including Sydney, experienced longer-than-usual queues during the busy Monday morning travel period .

A Reuters witness said the queues had disappeared at Sydney Airport by lunch-time.

A source at a major Australian carrier said airlines and airports had been instructed by the government to ramp up baggage checks as a result of the threat, with some luggage searches now being conducted as passengers queued to check in their bags.

Counter-terrorism police have conducted several recent raids, heightening tensions in a country that has had very few domestic attacks.

On Monday, three males pleaded guilty in the New South Wales state Supreme Court to “conspiracy to commit acts in preparation for a terrorist act or acts” in 2014, a court spokeswoman said, while another two pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Police previously said the men planned an attack on targets which included the AFP headquarters in Sydney, along with civilian targets . The offences are not related to the alleged plane bomb plot.

The 2014 Lindt cafe siege in Sydney, in which the hostage-taker and two people were killed, was Australia’s most deadly violence inspired by Islamic State militants.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY . Additional reporting by Byron Kaye and Jason Reed in SYDNEY and Jamie Freed in SINGAPORE .

Writing by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Michael Perry

Hamburg attacker was known to security forces as Islamist

HAMBURG (Reuters) – The migrant who killed one person and injured six others in a knife attack in a Hamburg supermarket on Friday was an Islamist known to German security forces, who say they believed he posed no immediate threat, the city-state’s interior minister said on Saturday.

A possible security lapse in a second deadly militant attack in less than a year, and two months before the general election, would be highly embarrassing for German intelligence, especially since security is a main theme in the Sept .

24 vote.

A Tunisian failed asylum seeker killed 12 people by driving a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin in December, slipping through the net after intelligence officers who had monitored him reached the conclusion he was no threat.

Hamburg Interior Minister Andy Grote told a news conference on Saturday that Friday’s 26-year-old attacker was registered in intelligence systems as an Islamist but not as a jihadist, as there was no evidence to link him to an imminent attack.

He also said the attacker, a Palestinian asylum seeker who could not be deported as he lacked identification documents, was psychologically unstable.

The Palestinian mission in Berlin had agreed to issue him with documents and he had agreed to leave Germany once these were ready, a process that takes a few months.

Security forces and ambulances are seen after a knife attack in a supermarket in Hamburg, Germany, July 28, 2017.Morris Mac Matzen

“What we can say of the motive of the attacker at the moment is that on the one side there are indications that he acted based on religious Islamist motives, and on the other hand there are indications of psychological instability,” Grote said.

“The attacker was known to security forces . There was information that he had been radicalised,” he said.

Police investigators work at the crime scene after a knife attack in a supermarket in Hamburg, Germany, July 28, 2017.Morris Mac Matzen

“As far as we know .. . there were no grounds to assess him as an immediate danger .

He was a suspected Islamist and was recorded as such in the appropriate systems, not as a jihadist but as an Islamist.”

Prosecutors said the attacker pulled a 20-centimetre knife from a shelf at the supermarket and stabbed three people inside and four outside before passers-by threw chairs and other objects at him, allowing police to arrest him.

A 50-year-old man died of his injuries . None of the other six people injured in the attack is in a life-threatening condition.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office in September . Her decision in 2015 to open Germany’s doors to more than one million migrants has sparked a debate about the need to spend more on policing and security.

Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, who could not be deported because he lacked identification documents, carried out his attack at a Christmas market in Berlin in December after security agencies stopped monitoring him because they could not prove suspicions that he was planning to purchase weapons.

Reporting by Frank Witte in Hamburg; Writing by Joseph Nasr in Berlin; Editing by Andrew Bolton

French soldier opens fire on machete-wielding man who ‘ran towards’ security forces at Louvre in Paris

A French soldier opened fire on a machete-wielding man who “ran towards” security forces around the Mus e du Louvre. The man – whose identity and nationality are not yet known – was reportedly attempting to enter the museum’s underground shop carrying two backpacks. Parisian police chief Michel Cadot said the attacker had been carrying a machete and had “run towards” a group of soldiers, shouting “Allahu akhbar” – ‘God is great’ in Arabic.

We are dealing with an attack from an individual who was clearly aggressive and represented a direct threat, and whose comments lead us to believe that he wished to carry out a terrorist incident.

Michel Cadot, police chief, Paris

Neither backpack – which sources had originally reported as suitcases – contained explosives, he confirmed. Benoit Brulon, spokesman for the military force which patrols key sites in the city, said the man attacked the four-strong team after being refused entry with his bags. They had tried to fight the man off before opening fire, he said.

One of the soldiers suffered minor injuries, and one of the others then have fired back five times, seriously injuring the man, including in the stomach. Mr Cadot said that a second individual had been detained after being spotted “behaving suspiciously”, but that there did not appear to be a link between them and the attack. Chinese tourist Jiao Liyang was among the 250 people inside the museum at the time, and said they had been told to sit on the ground in a locked room as the area was put on lockdown.

The Interior Ministry said they would be evacuated in small groups as soon as the “necessary precautions” had been taken.

Armed forces have been in place across the French capital to reassure tourists in the city after two major terror attacks in 2015.