A man being taken away near St Mary's Anglican Church in North Melbourne. Picture: 7 News
A man being taken away near St Mary's Anglican Church in North Melbourne. Picture: 7 News

Aussie terror suspect captured while wearing a hazmat suit

A man and a woman have been dramatically arrested and led away in Hazmat suits in a counter-terrorism operation near a North Melbourne church.

Witnesses described an "incredible" and "really strange" moment when heavily armed police swooped on St Mary's Anglican Church on Queensberry St about 2.30pm yesterday.

ABC News Breakfast presenter Virginia Trioli, who happened to be passing by, said the weapons held by the officers "looked like they came out of Avengers: Infinity War."

A man dressed in camouflage stands over the detainee. Pictures: Supplied
A man dressed in camouflage stands over the detainee. Pictures: Supplied

The man and woman were handcuffed on the ground while police wearing camouflage gear and carrying machine guns stood over them.

A man has reportedly been arrested near St Mary's Church. Picture: Twitter/@CGreenbank9
A man has reportedly been arrested near St Mary's Church. Picture: Twitter/@CGreenbank9

Trioli said one witness said the man had been holding a backpack at arm's length and officers had screamed at him to drop it. The ABC host said it was a scene she had "simply never seen before".

Witnesses filmed the man, dressed in dark clothing, sitting on the pavement with armed officers and detectives standing over him.

Backpacker Axel Morel told The Age he saw the man sitting with his back to a fence and an officer standing over him, before police made him put on a white forensic suit. "It was weird," he said. "Strange. Really strange."

Footage from Nine and Seven News showed the man cuffed with cable ties and wearing a plastic suit as he was led away by officers.

"Detectives from the Melbourne Joint Counter Terrorism Team conducted a routine operation in North Melbourne this afternoon," police said in a statement on Friday night.

"This operation is not linked to a specific incident and is part of the JCTT's ongoing intelligence gathering. It is also not linked to any imminent threat."

Heavily armed officers detain a man on the ground outside a church in North Melbourne.
Heavily armed officers detain a man on the ground outside a church in North Melbourne.

A Victoria Police spokesman earlier confirmed counter-terror police were "conducting operational activity". He would not confirm any arrests had been made but said two people were assisting with inquiries.

Police arrived in the area at 12pm and several streets were blocked off during the operation.

A man being taken away near St Mary's Anglican Church in North Melbourne. Picture: 7 News
A man being taken away near St Mary's Anglican Church in North Melbourne. Picture: 7 News

Armed police were seen guarding the Viscount apartment block on Bedford St shortly after the man was taken away, before more units including forensic teams arrived to execute a search warrant at around 4pm.

St Mary's locum vicar Barry Fernley, who was not in the church at the time, directed inquiries to Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne Philip Freier.

"At this stage I have no information regarding this matter," a spokesman for Rev Freier said.

It comes after the sister of one of the suicide bombers behind the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people alleged her brother had been radicalised while studying in Australia.

Authorities warned another attack was possible, as places of worship closed for the weekend.

frank.chung@news.com.au

Counter-terrorism police outside St Mary's Church, North Melbourne. Picture: Twitter/@cassiezervos
Counter-terrorism police outside St Mary's Church, North Melbourne. Picture: Twitter/@cassiezervos