Australian counter-terrorism raids thwart aircraft bomb plot

SYDNEY, July 30 (Reuters) - Anti-terrorism raids carried out across Sydney late on Saturday thwarted an alleged plot to bring down an aircraft, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Sunday.

Turnbull said the "major counter-terrorism operation" was ongoing and extra security measures have been put in place at major airports after four people were arrested in the Sydney raids.

"Upon the receipt of advice from our security and intelligence agencies, the government moved swiftly in order to protect the public while operations were underway and additional security measures were put in place at Sydney airport on Thursday," Turnbull said at an early morning press conference.

"These and further measures have been extended to all major airports at domestic and international terminals," he added.

Sydney airport in Australia
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Sydney airport in Australia
A passenger pushes a trolley as he walks towards the departures area at Sydney International Airport, Australia, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray
German backpacker Lisa Berkemeyer uses her laptop at the Qantas domestic terminal at Sydney airport, Australia, June 21, 2011. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz/File photo
A Virgin Australia Airlines 737 aircraft takes off at sunrise from Sydney International Airport, April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Planes sit on the tarmac at the terminal for Sydney's International Airport, Australia, in this picture taken on November 12, 2015. Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection on March 22, 2016 joined other public sector workers in a growing strike that threatens to paralyse air travel at the nation's biggest international airports ahead of a holiday weekend. Picture taken November 12, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray
Signs adorn the walls for the departures area at Sydney International Airport, Australia, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray
Qantas Airways planes can be seen parked at the domestic terminal at Sydney airport in Australia, June 24, 2017. Picture taken June 24, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Planes can be seen parked at Sydney's Kingsford Smith International Airport in Sydney, Australia, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray

Turnbull said people with plans to travel should do so with confidence, but allow extra time for security screening because of the extra security.

Australia, a close ally of the United States, has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East, or their supporters, since 2014.

Authorities say they have thwarted a number of potential attacks since then, but there have been several "lone wolf" assaults, including a cafe siege in Sydney that left two hostages and the gunman dead.

About 100 people have left Australia for Syria to fight alongside organizations such as Islamic State, Australia's immigration minister said last month. (Reporting by Benjamin Cooper; Editing by Jane Wardell and James Dalgleish)

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