Sydney church stabbing: seven teenagers accused of “violent extremist ideology”

Sydney church stabbing: seven teenagers accused of “violent extremist ideology”

Australian police have apprehended seven teenagers allegedly affiliated with a “religiously motivated violent extremist ideology” in a series of raids conducted across Sydney.

New South Wales police executed 13 search warrants, resulting in the arrest of seven individuals aged between 14 and 17 on Wednesday. The detained individuals are allegedly linked to a network that includes a 16-year-old boy accused of perpetrating the stabbing of a bishop in a Sydney church earlier this month.

The 16-year-old has been charged with a terrorist offence over the alleged attack.

The stabbing incident occurred during a service at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley. The service was being live streamed, and a recording of it circulated online, including platform X.

Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police Krissy Barrett, asserted that there was “no evidence” indicating any planned attack.

“We identified links between the alleged offender and a network of associates and peers who would believe shared a similar violent extremist ideology.

“At this time, we have no evidence of specific locations, times, or targets of a violent act,” she said.

Police have alleged that two teenage boys charged with terrorism offences in connection with a church stabbing in Sydney possessed videos of Islamic State beheadings on their mobile phones.

The 14-year-old and 17-year-old appeared in court, facing charges of possessing or controlling extremist material, following a string of counterterrorism operations in New South Wales.

Although the younger boy was granted conditional bail, the prosecutor intends to appeal, resulting in his continued custody.

Under the proposed bail conditions, the use of phones, computers, and gaming consoles for communication would be restricted, and the boy would be required to consult with a psychologist.

According to information presented in court, police will claim that the 14-year-old’s phone contained files depicting individuals being run over, along with a “cartoon advocating violence towards homosexual men.”

Magistrate Mulroney denied bail, describing the images as “awful, awful, awful.”

“It depicts extreme violence, gratuitous violence, it also depicts the methodologies of the commission of violence acts,” he said.

According to the court, the 17-year-old also had a “video of a person in military fatigues providing instructions on making explosive devices.”

Five teenagers remain under interrogation by the Joint-Counter Terrorist team following the raids across Sydney and Goulburn. More than 400 police from NSW and the AFP were involved in the investigation.

Last Tuesday, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant issued a directive instructing all platforms to take down content related to Monday’s Sydney church stabbing.

Social media companies including Google, Microsoft, Snapchat and TikTok have complied with similar orders. While X complied with the removal, they are currently fighting the decision, arguing that the Australian regulatory body lacks the jurisdiction to dictate the content accessible to X’s users worldwide.

In response to the incident, an Australian Federal Court judge took action on Wednesday, extending an order that prohibits platform X from showcasing videos depicting Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel being repeatedly stabbed. Justice Geoffrey Kennett prolonged the ban until May 10.

Platform X, formerly known as Twitter, declared its intention last week to contest Australian directives mandating the removal of posts related to the attack.

During Wednesday’s court session, Marcus Hoyne, representing X, informed the judge that the bishop opposed the video’s ban. Hoyne stated that Emmanuel had recently submitted a sworn statement expressing his belief that the material should remain accessible.

Hoyne criticised the eSafety Commission’s actions, arguing that they were trying to exercise excessive authority with “injunctions that effectively operate throughout the whole world.”

Authorities are citing social media as the driving force behind the gathering of 2,000 individuals at the Christ the Good Shepherd Church following the attack. This assembly spiralled into a riot, resulting in injuries to 51 police officers and damage to 104 police vehicles.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner David Hudson announced on Wednesday that further raids are imminent as part of the ongoing investigation.

“A number of associates were identified that we believe warranted further police attention and investigation,” he said.

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