By Jill Fraser
MELBOURNE, Australia (AA) – Australian police arrested Tuesday an 18-year-old man in Sydney for allegedly plotting an “imminent” lone-wolf terrorist act.
Fairfax Media reports that counter-terrorism police allege that Tamim Khaja from Macquarie Park, in Sydney's northwest, was attempting to buy a gun and that he had scouted possible sites for an attack in the capital of New South Wales (NSW) state.
News broadcaster ABC reports that NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said Tuesday morning that the arrest of Khaja had prevented an attack, which she described as "probably imminent".
At a joint media conference at Australian Federal Police headquarters in Sydney, Australian Federal Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan said police will allege Khaja was looking for "possible sites in Sydney to undertake a terrorist attack and was making arrangements to acquire a firearm".
Gaughan said that police are satisfied that Khaja was acting alone.
He has been charged with two offences -- allegedly planning a terrorism attack and preparation for foreign incursions.
Both offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Burn said police would contend that Khaja was planning to leave the country to go to Syria to join Daesh.
"He does have associations with some of the people that have already been put before the courts," she said during Tuesday’s media conference.
Praising the work of the Joint Counter Terrorism Team, Burns said as of now nine imminent strikes have been prevented since Sept. 2014.
“We have taken swift action to ensure the safety of the community and we are satisfied that any threat to the community posed by the individual has been mitigated,” Gaughan told reporters.
Police would not identify which sites Khaja had allegedly been planning to target, but that they would likely be “institutions of authority”.
Attorney-General George Brandis confirmed Khaja was targeting public buildings representing authority.
Brandis told media from Brisbane on Tuesday that Khaja “was known to law enforcement authorities, that he had attempted to leave the country in February to engage, it will be alleged, in hostile acts of foreign incursion but he was prevented from leaving because he was the subject of a passport cancellation”.
He added that Khaja has since “been under the surveillance of the relevant authorities who have decided this morning to act to prevent an imminent terrorist event.”
On Tuesday, Khaja's lawyer told 7 News he will not yet apply for bail on terrorism charges but will make an application at a later date.
Australia has been engaged in efforts to increase anti-terror measures in recent years.
The country passed legislation in December to strip dual nationals of their citizenship if they are convicted or suspected of terrorism offences.
It has already banned its citizens from traveling to Mosul and Syria’s Raqqa province -- unless they have a “legitimate purpose” for being there.