Australia releases terror suspect

Australian police release one of four men arrested during counter-terrorism raids last week.

Ben Ariel,

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Flag of Australia

Australian police on Sunday released a second man arrested during counter-terrorism raids last week, AFP reports.

He was released days after two others were charged with terrorism offenses over an alleged plot to bring down a plane.

The 39-year-old man, named by his lawyer as Khaled Merhi, was one of four suspects arrested during raids across Sydney last Saturday, which also led to tightened security at all major Australian airports.

"This investigation remains ongoing," Australian Federal Police and New South Wales state police said in a statement quoted by AFP.

"A 39-year-old man, detained in relation to allegations regarding a potential terrorist attack, has been charged with one count of possession of prohibited weapon and released from police custody," added the statement.

Merhi, whose detention by police had been extended by a magistrate, was due to be released Sunday if he was not charged. He is set to appear in court on the prohibited weapon charge on August 24.

Two other suspects, 49-year-old Khaled Khayat and 32-year-old Mahmoud Khayat, 32, were charged with terrorism offenses and refused bail Friday. Another man, 50-year-old Adbul Merhi, was released without charge Wednesday.

Australian police said on Friday that as part of the plans, a senior Islamic State (ISIS) commander directed a group of Australian men to build a bomb destined for an Etihad Airways flight out of Sydney.

The improvised explosive device was due to be smuggled onto the July 15 service, but the attempt was aborted before they reached security, according to AFP.

Australia raised the terror threat alert level to high in September of 2014.

That month, Australia arrested 15 terror suspects of an Islamic State (ISIS) cell that was planning to behead a random member of the public in a campaign of terror.

In December of 2016, police in Australia arrested seven suspects who were allegedly planning a series of bomb attacks in the heart of Melbourne on Christmas Day and were inspired by ISIS.

Last month, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack in Melbourne.