SYDNEY – Australian counterterrorism police have charged a second man with terrorism over an alleged right-wing plot to stage attacks outside Sydney, officials said Saturday.
The 23-year-old had been in custody since March 15 when authorities charged another man, described as having “neo-Nazi” and anti-government interests, with planning terrorist acts, they said.
The 23-year-old was due to appear in court Saturday charged with involvement in “early-stage planning and preparation for a terrorist act” and trying to acquire military firearms and bomb-making material, they said in a statement.
The suspect was allegedly the associate of the 21-year-old from the same area south of Sydney who was charged with the same terrorism offenses on Monday.
Police said they found a “large quantity of extreme right-wing and anti-government material” on electronic devices seized at the second suspect’s home and that searches of other locations continued.
The pair were detained as New Zealand marked the one-year anniversary of the Christchurch mosque massacre, when an Australian self-avowed white supremacist gunned down 51 Muslim worshippers during Friday prayers.
Police said the Christchurch anniversary led police to move against the men though there was no indication they had planned an attack to coincide with the March 15 anniversary.
The arrests came just weeks after the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation warned of the growing danger of right-wing extremism in the country.
“In Australia, the extreme right-wing threat is real and it is growing,” ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess said.
“In suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology,” he said.
“These groups are more organized and security-conscious than they were in previous years.”
In Saturday’s announcement, police appealed for anyone with information about “extremist activity” or possible threats to the public to come forward, “no matter how small or insignificant you may think the information may be.”