SYDNEY, Apr 1 (Reuters) Australian police have arrested and charged three men with alleged links with a terrorist organisation after counter-terrorism teams swooped on Melbourne's northern suburbs, a top policeman said today..
The men, detained last night, were alleged to have plotted a terrorist attack with 19 others arrested during raids in Sydney and Melbourne last November in the country's biggest counter-terrorism sweep.
Federal and state police, along with the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) were involved in the operation codenamed Pendennis.
More arrests were expected, said Frank Prendergast, Federal Police Assistant Commissioner for Counter Terrorism.
''We believe that what we've done is disrupt a significant threat to the community,'' he told a news conference in Melbourne.
''The specifics of those threats will come out during the court processes and we need to be careful in this situation not to say anything that will impinge on the court process.'' The three men were to appear in court in Melbourne on Monday.
Police said the three had been charged with international membership of a terrorist organisation, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, and with intentionally making funds available to a terrorist organisation.
Two of the men were also charged with intentionally providing support to a terrorist organisation, which carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years.
Australia, a staunch US ally with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, has never suffered a major peacetime attack on home soil. The country has been on medium security alert since shortly after the September. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
REUTERS PG RK0901