Australian authorities charged five people, including a 15-year-old boy, with conspiracy to plan a terrorist attack on a government building, according to multiple reports.
The teen and a 20-year-old western Sydney man were arrested and charged with “conspiracy to conduct an act in preparation for a terrorist act, ” on Thursday the Associated Press reports. The three other men – one 21-year-old and two aged 22 – were already in custody on separate terror charges, but were later charged with the additional offense.
Authorities say the planned attack stemmed from a broader investigation into a now-uncovered terror plot that prompted a series of raids in December 2014, Reuters reports. Evidence seized in those raids contributed to Thursday’s arrests.
On Thursday, Australian officials expressed concern about the increasing number of radicalized teenagers in the country, noting that all of the men, including the boy, face a potential sentence of life in prison if convicted, CNN reports.
“We are charging a 15-year-old with a very, very serious offense,” NSW Police Deputy commissioner for special operations said, per CNN. “This is concerning not only to us, in law enforcement, this should be concerning to everybody.”
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Officials said that those arrested had been under police surveillance since authorities uncovered the plot last year, the AP reports.
Police said at a news conference that potential targets of the attack included randomly chosen civilians and the Australian Federal Police headquarters in Sydney, per Reuters.
Australian officials did not give many details about the alleged plot, but say they believe the five charged were influenced by extremists, according to the AP.
“A lot of the people we are dealing with – and emphasizing this is only a small group of people – are clearly radicalized to the point of talking about and acting out with violence,” AFP deputy commissioner of national security Michael Phelan said.
“How they’ve become radicalized, we don’t actually know,” he added.