Teenager in Australia terror plot denied bail

(File, AFP)
(File, AFP)

Sydney - A 15-year-old charged over a terror plot used coded text messages to try and avoid detection, an Australian court heard as he was denied bail Friday over fears he could commit serious crimes.

The teenager, who under Australian law cannot be named, was remanded in custody at Parramatta Children's Court in Sydney after he was arrested in police raids Thursday and charged with conspiracy to conduct an act in preparation for a terrorist act.

The court was told the suspect had been under surveillance for more than a year and had previously been convicted on firearm charges.

"There's no doubt that if the risk were to materialise, the consequences for public safety would be extremely serious," magistrate Elizabeth Ryan told the court in denying bail.

The police prosecutor had alleged the boy used "banana" as a code word in text messages to describe a gun.

"I'm going to get to paradise through banana, God is great, no God but Allah," said one message read out in court, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said.

The court was also shown photographs allegedly seized from the boy of an ISIS fighter and of a beheading by the jihadist group.

Increasing concern

The teenager was also the subject of raids in 2013 and 2014, and his psychologist told the court he was suffering from anxiety and depression as a result of the police visits.

"He sleeps in his parents' bedroom because he's afraid of being raided all the time," the Sydney Morning Herald reported the psychologist as saying.

"He can't sleep and he has frequent nightmares. I have high concerns for his mental health."

Four other people were also charged on Thursday stemming from evidence gathered during pre-dawn raids in Australia late last year in which 15 people were taken into custody and an alleged plan to kidnap and behead a member of the public was uncovered.

Canberra has shown increasing concern over home-grown extremism as well as the flow of its citizens to conflict zones in the Middle East to join extremist groups such as ISIS.

Some 120 Australians are estimated by the government to be in Iraq and Syria with another 160 actively backing extremist organisations at home through financing and recruitment.

The government raised the terror alert level to high last year, introduced new national security laws and conducted several counter-terrorism raids.

The latest raids came just days before the country marks the one-year anniversary of the 17-hour Sydney cafe siege where a gunman and two hostages were killed.

They also came two months after a civilian police employee was shot in the head by another 15-year-old boy outside law enforcement headquarters in Sydney. The boy was killed in an exchange of gunfire with officers.

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