Victoria Police to charge Sunni trio with attacks on Shia mosque

The Fawkner mosque was daubed with graffiti in English and Arabic hailing ISIS. Photo: AAP

The Fawkner mosque was daubed with graffiti in English and Arabic hailing ISIS. Photo: AAP

Three men are expected to be charged with committing an “Islamic state-inspired” arson attacks on a Shia Islamic centre in late 2016.

A 29-year-old man from Meadow Heights, in Melbourne’s north, was arrested late last night by officers from the special operations group and was remanded in custody.

It will be alleged that the man and two others, who are currently in custody and awaiting trial for planning a terrorist act on Christmas day in 2016, caused two serious fires at the Imam Ali Islamic Centre at Fawkner, in November and December of 2016.

The three will be charged with committing a terrorist act over the fires because it is a Shia centre and it was alleged that those who committed the attack were members of an “extremist Sunni ideology”.

“In terms of the charges being led today, we’re not saying these are just arson attacks,” Assistant Commissioner Ian McCartney, of the Australian Federal Police said.

“What we’re going to allege is that these were Islamic state-inspired attacks.

“They were inspired and designed to influence, put fear into a particular group in the community.

“These are significant and serious charges and carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.”

Assistant Commissioner McCartney said there was a “strong influence” behind the attacks from Islamic State.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Ross Guenther said the impact of the attacks on the Shia Muslim community were significant.

“It interferes with the whole process of social cohesion that we so heavily promote,” he said.

“So I think if you look back at the methodology behind ISIS, it’s really about separating, it’s about being divisive. That’s very much what this was intended to be.”

Assistant Commissioner Guenther said they were not aware of any other threat to that community at the moment.

All three men are expected to be charged later today and if convicted, they face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

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