Parramatta shooting: Four arrested in western Sydney over terrorist attack outside police HQ; suspects linked to Baryalei terror raids
Three of four males arrested this morning over last week’s fatal terrorist attack at Parramatta police headquarters were targeted in Australia’s biggest counter-terrorism raids a year ago.
Police this morning arrested four males aged between 16 and 22 in counter-terror raids across western Sydney.
A fifth person, a 24-year-old man from Merrylands, was also arrested this morning but was not detained as part of the joint counter-terror raids operation.
He was arrested as a result of an outstanding warrant for identity fraud and other fraud matters.
Police allege the four men arrested in the counter-terrorism operation are directly linked to the fatal shooting of police accountant Curtis Cheng outside the Parramatta police HQ last Friday.
Eighteen-year-old Raban Alou was arrested at Lane Street, Wentworthville, the same home where his older brother Kawa was arrested in sweeping raids in September last year and released without charge.
Police also arrested a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons and who was in the same year at Arthur Phillip High School as Farhad Jabar Khalil Mohammad, the 15-year-old who shot Mr Cheng.
At Marsfield, police arrested another target of the September 2014 raids, 22-year-old Mustafa Dirani, a former student of Arthur Phillip High.
This afternoon police released two of the four who were arrested, both aged 22, after the detention period allowed in their warrants expired.
Police also returned this morning to the Guildford home of Omarjan Azari, who is in jail on a charge of conspiracy to murder after being arrested in last year’s raids.
The 2014 raids were sparked by a phone call to Azari in which Australia’s most senior Islamic State lieutenant, Mohammad Ali Baryalei, allegedly directed him to kill a random member of the public.
Members of the group who were raided in 2014 and Baryalei, who has since been killed in Syria, were known to congregate at the Parramatta mosque where Farhad Jabar Khalil Mohammad spent several hours before he carried out last Friday’s attack.
The 15-year-old was shot and killed by police at the scene of the shooting.
15yo gunman ‘did not act alone’
Police are investigating where the gun came from and whether one of the four men arrested this morning supplied it to the gunman.
NSW Police Force Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn it was unclear whether or not the four arrested today inspired the terrorist attack on Parramatta Police HQ.
“We have certain suspicions and we are clearly going to have to sift through all of this over the next couple of days,” she said.
She said the motivation of the 15-year-old was still unknown but police definitely had the suspicion he did not act alone.
“What we are investigating is a terrorism offence so what we would suggest and we suspect is that there was some influence — whether it was ideologically, religious or politically motivated — that determined and influenced the 15-year-old to go and commit this horrendous act of violence,” she said.
But Ms Burn said the teen gunman had “not been a target of ours and is not somebody we would have assessed as a threat”.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters no terrorist organisation had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said “there’s no doubt” Sydney had a problem with Islamic radicalisation.
“Importantly though, this is a minority. It is something that will be dealt with,” he said.
“It will be dealt with on the basis of the Muslim community [and] it’ll be done more broadly with the whole community.”
Three arrested plus gunman went to same school
Mr Baird said he was concerned about religious radicalisation in the state’s schools, but insisted the problem was not widespread.
Two of the males arrested today, along with a teenager charged with threatening police yesterday, and the teenage gunman from the Parramatta attack all went to Arthur Phillip High School.
But certainly my strong assurance to the people of NSW is that our schools are safe.
Mr Baird said he had asked the Education Department to accelerate the work it was doing to combat radicalisation among school students, but he downplayed the extent of the problem.
“There have been some isolated incidents. They are being dealt with by police, they are being dealt with by the Department of Education together and that’s what we need to continue to see,” Mr Baird said.
“We need to understand that we are in a new world. The risks that are emerging are new.
“But certainly my strong assurance to the people of NSW is that our schools are safe.”
Earlier, Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan defended programs designed to stop young people becoming influenced by radical extremism.
“We are working to try and divert people if we think they are falling under the spell of ISIL in the Middle East,” Mr Keenan told the ABC’s AM program.
Mr Keenan said Australia was a world leader in the global response, and was also making inroads at a local level.
In a message to parents today, Arthur Phillip High School principal Lynne Goodwin said NSW Police had advised the school that “there is no ongoing threat as a result of last Friday’s tragic event”.
“I would like to reassure the whole Arthur Phillip High School community that the school continues to be in close liaison with the Department of Education and the NSW Police to uphold our exemplary levels of student safety and student wellbeing,” Ms Goodwin said.
“Our school counsellors are available for all students, if required, today or in the future.”
Police reach out to Turkish counterparts to find gunman’s sister
Farhad’s sister flew out of the country, bound for the Middle East, a day before the NSW Police headquarters shooting.
The woman is a key focus of inquiries into the crime, with police suspicious of the timing of her travel.
“We have passed the details of that young lady on to the Turkish national police who will actively try and find her for us,” Mr Gaughan said.
“I might stress at this time there is no suggestion that she has been involved in any criminal activity here, but obviously investigators are very keen to have a chat with her about what she knows about her brother’s action.”
Hundreds of police involved in dawn raids
More than 200 officers took part in this morning’s raids, launched at 6:00am AEDT.
Neighbours living across the road from the Marsfield property confirmed it was not the first time police had visited the home.
Elaine Archer told the ABC when she saw police vehicles this morning she thought to herself, “Ok, here we go again”.
“We went through it the last time they raided the same house,” Ms Archer said.
This morning’s operation followed last night’s raid on the home of an Arthur Phillip High teenager who allegedly used his Facebook page to threaten police.
Parramatta shooting: Police search mosque in shooting investigation
The Parramatta Mosque has been searched, a senior police source has told the ABC, as investigations into Friday’s fatal shooting of a civilian police force employee continue.
Farhad Jabar Khali Mohammad, 15, shot and killed 17-year police force veteran Curtis Cheng at close range outside the Parramatta police headquarters.
A senior police source told the ABC Farhad attended a mosque shortly before the shooting.
The mosque believed to have been searched overnight is a few blocks away from the site of the shooting that killed Mr Cheng, 58, as he left work at 4:30pm on Friday.
A senior figure at the Parramatta mosque has confirmed that police searched the mosque to look for a black backpack which they believe Farhad used to carry the gun he used to kill Mr Cheng.
Police said the warrant was undertaken by arrangement with leadership at the mosque, who gave their full assistance to police.
Earlier, a police source said the teenager had been armed with a revolver and did not know Mr Cheng.
After shooting Mr Cheng, Farhad fired at officers who emerged from the building to respond to the incident, but was killed when special constables returned fire.
Earlier, senior law enforcement sources said it appeared the teenager had acted alone.
“The people there (at the mosque) went looking for him after prayer,” one source said.
“There is a fair bit of information that he acted alone.”
They said after prayer he changed into a black robe.
Neil El-Kadomi from the Parramatta Mosque said Farhad visited the building in the past on occasion but he did not know him by name.
“Because he was very quiet nobody noticed him,” Mr El-Kadomi said.
“He’s not known in the mosque. He came to the mosque to heal himself before he did the crime, which is wrong.”
Mr El-Kadomi said the mosque had nothing to do with the shooting and did not condone it.
“The boy, he did it alone. He died and his motive died with him,” he said.
“You have to be an active person in society, you have to join others in building Australia.
“So, we don’t agree with what happened in Parramatta.
“We’ve got nothing to do with it and I hate the linking of the mosque with the crime.”
Shooter’s relative tipped off police
The ABC was told by a senior police source that it was the older brother of the Parramatta shooter who tipped off them off about the identity of Farhad.
It is also understood Farhad’s sister Shadi went missing on Thursday and flew out of Australia on a Singapore Airlines flight bound for Istanbul, and may be attempting to reach Iraq or Syria.
Her family told police she had taken all her belongings.
Police searched Farhad’s North Parramatta home and confiscated computer equipment.
ABC’s police source said the youth had been “carrying on” outside police headquarters for a few minutes before the shooting.
“He drew attention to himself to the extent some people caught it on their iPhones,” they said.
The gunman walked past a plain clothes female detective.
“She was wearing a business suit and she wasn’t carrying a gun,” a source said.
“This poor bloke [the victim] was apparently the first one to walk out of the building — he had a connection to the police force — that was it.”
Phone hook-up between Turnbull, Baird and Muslim leaders
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Premier Mike Baird have been holding talks with Muslim community leaders following the shooting.
Ms Bishop said the issue of radicalisation must be addressed.
“So we’re certainly reaching out to the leaders of the Muslim community … but working with the families at a grassroots local level … it’s the families that will be a frontline of defence against radicalised young people … so we will be working very closely with them,” she said.
The ABC’s Fran Kelly told the Insiders program that a phone hook-up between “the Premier, the Police Commissioner and the Prime Minister with seven or eight members of the Muslim community” took place last night.
She said Mr Turnbull used the phone call to convey the message that “we have a remarkably cohesive society, respect is key to that and [urged] everyone to work together to expose preachers of hate”.
The ABC understands the community leaders were impressed by the move and communicated their willingness to work with governments. One leader said the conversation reset the relationship.
Muslim community leaders said they were shocked by the tragic shooting of Mr Cheng.
They called for more to be done to stop extremist leaders from recruiting vulnerable youths.
Sydney Muslim community leader Ahmad El-Hage said the Government only acted when extremist thoughts turn into acts of violence.
“And we tell them this is not correct we need to act way before that,” he said.
Mr El-Hage said the Government needed to focus on the extremist leaders rather than the young people they target.
Youth worker Sheikh Wesam Charkawi, who works with high school boys to counter radical ideas, said the acts of one person should not reflect upon the broader Muslim community.
He also said some of the youth he worked with feel marginalised.
“Some of them in their families feel that there’s a disconnect, some of them come from broken families and so there is an array of issues that can lead to criminality,” Mr Charkawi said.
He said despite youth being impressionable and often naive, nothing could justify what the shooter did.
Relative known to police and counter-terrorism authorities
As part of their investigation, police are now trying to trace the ownership and history of the revolver used by Farhad in the attack.
The ABC has been told the youth had never come to the attention of police.
“We don’t know anything about him,” the source said.
But it is understood a relative was known to law enforcement or intelligence agencies.
“[The relative] was a bit of a problem, he did come to the attention of police and counter-terrorism [authorities],” a source said.
One source confirmed the teenager was a Sunni Muslim who was born in Iran.
He said he was of Iraqi-Kurdish background and may have been a refugee.
“It is interesting he is a Kurd, the Kurds are among those bearing the brunt of ISIS, it doesn’t make any sense,” the source said.
‘He was callously murdered’: Civilian IT worker on his way home from work was shot dead at ‘very close range’ by a lone gunman outside police headquarters in Sydney’s west
- Lone gunman opened fire outside police HQ before being shot dead
- Civilian IT expert was also killed in double shooting at station in Sydney
- Witnesses described seeing two bodies on the ground covered in sheets
- Police allegedly warned about possible attack through intelligence sources
A lone gunman shot dead a civilian police IT expert at close range outside a force headquarters in a targeted attack which has been described as a ‘brutal’ and ‘callous murder’.
The black-clad assailant also fired a number of shots at special constables guarding the NSW Police station in Parramatta today before he was gunned down and killed by one of the officers.
Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione offered his condolences to the family of the unnamed police employee who was killed on his way home from work and said there was no further threat.
He refused to be drawn on whether the double shooting was terror-related, but admitted that officers from within the counter-terrorism command were working alongside the homicide squad.
Commissioner Scipione said the gunman, who was wearing dark trousers and a flowing dark top, acted ‘aggressively’ after shooting the IT worker and brandished his gun in the street at 4.30pm.
A civilian IT expert working for police is believed to have been shot dead after a lone gunman opened fire outside a force headquarters in Sydney, pictured officers gather around a white sheet covering a body
Witnesses have described seeing the gunman, who was dressed all in black, running down the street brandishing a pistol at 4.30pm today just before he was shot, pictured is the scene outside the station
He said: ‘I have viewed a number of pieces of footage, I can tell you that this was a brutal crime. It was a terrible crime.
‘We’re attempting to identify a man who was seen to approach the victim and discharge one single shot. Subsequently the assailant remained in the street here in Charles Street before he fired several further shots at a special constable.
‘A number of special constables came out of the building and as they’ve emerged they’ve come under fire.
‘In the exchange that followed the gunman was shot and killed. An employee of the NSW police force has been callously murdered here today. This is a very sobering time for us.’
When asked whether police were warned about a possible attack at the station, Commissioner Scipione revealed there had been a number of alerts in 2014 and 2015 about remaining ‘vigilant’.
‘We have drawn officers back to the special warnings which are contained within alert 2015,’ he said.
‘We’ve refreshed that alert and yet again highlighted the importance of remaining vigilant and being ready to respond should they have to at any location but particularly around police stations. I want to ensure that we don’t jump to conclusions, as I’ve said.
‘I’ve indicated that but we’re keeping an open mind. At this stage we’ve got nothing to link this event to any terrorist-related activity but we could not say that that wasn’t the case. So clearly you would understand we have officers from within the counter-terrorism command.’
The attack occurred outside a daycare centre used by police force families and the children were locked inside for four hours after the shooting with a dead body at their doorstep.
Detectives have launched a ‘critical incident investigation’ and confirmed that two people had been killed after a number of shots were fired.
An ambulance NSW spokeswoman said paramedics were on the scene at Charles St, in the city’s CBD
Detectives have not yet established the identity of the deceased, according to a spokesman
Witnesses have described seeing the gunman, who was dressed all in black, running down the street brandishing a pistol at 4.30pm today just before he was shot.
They also reported seeing two bodies lying on the ground covered in white sheets.
Real estate agent Edwin Almeida said he saw a man with a gun screaming and pacing up and down outside the building on Charles Street.
He said he then saw the man lying on the ground with a police officer pointing a gun at him.
‘We looked out the window, saw security guards and what appeared to be a plain clothes police officer with gun drawn pointing at the person that was now lying on the floor surrounded by a pool of blood,’ he said.
He wrote on his Facebook page: ‘Four five shots fired by man outside our office and in front of NSW police head quarters. Man shot down by guards and detectives.’
A man called Nathan told 2GB Radio that he saw a man lying on the street surrounded by blood.
‘I saw the guy dressed in black on the pavement with blood everywhere,’ he said.
Channel Seven helicopter pilot Andrew Millett said: ‘We can see two bodies on the ground approximately 200m away from police headquarters’.
Ambulances were called to the scene at 4:35pm after ‘reports of two patients’, a spokeswoman said.
Officers in body armour have been seen patrolling the Parramatta CBD and guarding train stations, pictured is Charles Street
It is understood one of the victims is not a sworn officer but a civilian employee from the IT department of NSW Police.
Finance worker Rizwan Shaikh, who lives opposite the police headquarters, said he heard the shooting.
‘I finished work and was in the shower and I heard the gunshots,’ Mr Shaikh told The Daily Telegraph.
‘I heard six or seven gunshots and it was pretty loud. In two to three minutes there were cops everywhere.’
Miffy Hong, 33, said her mother called her just after 5pm to tell her she could see a body covered by a sheer near police headquarters.
‘She told me come back I don’t know what’s happening, she doesn’t speak English,’ she said.
The NSW Police Force building is home to the State Crime Command, which includes the homicide, drug, Middle Eastern organised crime and gangs squads.
An investigation is believed to be underway into whether the shooter had been recently charged by a detective from one of the State Crime Command squads.
Police have shut down the whole area and drivers have been told to avoid the scene at Charles Street.
Parents of young children locked inside Goodstart Early Learning, just metres from where the shooting took place, have voiced fears about their welfare.
Dennis Entriken, whose three-year-old daughter has not been allowed to leave, told Daily Mail Australia: ‘It’s very frustrating. One of the dead bodies is right out of the front of the chilcare centre.
‘What did they see, what did they hear? Is she scared? Is she OK?
‘They’ve told us she’s safe which is good… it’s the unknown which is the issue.’
He said police had warned him that she would not be out anytime soon and said there were around 10 children inside.
‘If she saw nothing and she’s blissfully unaware then that’s good,’ he said.
A section of Charles Street between Macquarie Street and Hassall Street has been cordoned off and is currently being manned by police.
Officers in body armour have been seen patrolling the Parramatta CBD and guarding train stations.
Witnesses described hearing what sounded like a car tyre exploding before buildings near the headquarters were evacuated.
Several roads in Parramatta were blocked after the shooting and helicopters were seen circling overhead, pictured is Charles Street
Two people have been hurt and there are reports of a shooting outside police headquarters in Parramatta, in Sydney’s west
Mr Scipione said today’s incident was a targeted killing.
He said the victim, believed to be an IT worker, was “callously murdered here today”. “This was a brutal crime, this was a terrible crime,” he said.
The identity of the gunman is not yet known, Mr Scipione said, and neither is the motive for the killing.
He said the victim “was simply leaving work,” and offered his condolences to the family.
Police secure the scene of the shooting. Picture: Phillip Rogers
How today’s events unfolded
A massive police operation is under way in Parramatta in Sydney’s west after two people were shot dead outside NSW Police Force headquarters.
The operation began about 4.30pm today and police are advising people to avoid Charles Street and Hassall Street as a 2km exclusion zone has been set up.
The Daily Telegraph reports that police had warning of the attack through intelligence sources and one victim of the shooting “was a public servant working for NSW Police.”
“He was shot before (the) shooter was killed,” they report.
It is then believed “the gunman was shot by NSW Special Constables.”
The shooter, “believed to be of Middle Eastern appearance and dressed in black”, according to The Daily Telegraph, “launched an attack from the street, peppering the front of the building with bullets.”
“He shot a police IT expert before being gunned by special constables who guard the entrance,” they report.
Police said a critical incident investigation had been launched following the deaths of two people.
“The incident occurred outside the NSW Police headquarters building on Charles Street about 4.30pm today after a number of shots were fired,” the service said in a statement.
“It appears an officer has discharged his weapon, responding to a report that a person had been shot.
“Two people have died at the scene.” It said officers were still to establish the identity of those killed.
Two people were reportedly shot dead outside NSW Police headquarters.
The attack happened close to a childcare centre used by police force families.
Goodstart Early Learning centre staff member Ashmi Golwala said she heard at least three “loud sounds”.
“They sounded like crackers and I went outside to see what was happening and a police lady told me to stay inside,” she told The Australian.
A 2km exclusion zone has been set up around the NSW Police headquarters.
Real estate agent Edwin Almeida says he heard shots and saw a man in a black gown pacing and waving a gun outside the police headquarters.
Mr Almeida said his frightened staff ran into their office and heard three to four gun shots.
“We looked out the window, saw security guards and what appeared to be a plain clothes police officer with gun drawn and pointing at the person that was now lying on the floor surrounded by a pool of blood.”
Mr Almeida filmed part of the attack (see video above) and later described it to friends.
“There was blood everywhere … after the security and detectives fired on him,” he posted on Facebook.
“Staff being escorted to railway station by police. Great support from NSW police. These guys are bloody awesome.”
Some reports suggested the attack was a drive-by shooting, but Mr Almeida disputed this.
“This guy was not driving that’s for sure. He didn’t appear to be wanting to get away,” he said.
— Additional words: Rick Morton, with AAP
Police on Hassell St as night falls following the shooting. Picture: Jonathan Ng