Melbourne Christmas Day terror plot foiled: Here's everything you need to know

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Australian police have detained five men suspected of planning a series of Christmas Day attacks in Melbourne.

Here, we answer all the questions about the "substantial terror plot" foiled by police.

What attacks were planned?

The men were planning attacks using explosives, knives and a gun in the heart of Melbourne, which is Australia's second largest city.

They planned to target Flinders Street railway station, neighbouring Federation Square, a fashionable bar and restaurant precinct, and also St Paul's Cathedral, an Anglican church.

The suspects were inspired by Islamic State, according to Victoria state police chief commissioner Graham Ashton.

He also said the men had been plotting the attack for three weeks.

Who are the suspects?

About 400 officers were involved in raids on Thursday night and Friday morning, and seven people were initially arrested. But a 26-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman were released without charge.

Five men aged 21 to 26 remain in custody. Three have appeared in a Melbourne court charged with preparing or planning a terrorist attack. They face a life sentence if convicted.

Hamza Abbas, 21, Ahmed Mohamed, 24, and Abdullah Chaarani, 26, didn't enter pleas or apply for bail. They will appear in court next on April 28. Police said the other two men will also be charged with preparing a terrorist attack.

Four of the suspects were born in Australia and the fifth was Egyptian-born with Egyptian and Australian citizenship.

What's Australia's Prime Minister said?

Malcolm Turnbull said it was one of the most substantial plots to be disrupted for several years.

"Islamist terrorism is a global challenge that affects us all. But we must not be cowed by the terrorists," he told reporters.

"We will continue to go about our lives as we always have. What these criminals seek to do is to kill. But they also seek to frighten us, to cow us into abandoning our Australian way of life," he added.

So this isn't the first time attacks have been foiled by Australian police recently?

flinders street station
Flinders Street Station was one of the targets (David Davies/PA)

The government says there have been four extremist attacks and 12 plots foiled by police since Australia's terrorist threat level was elevated in September 2014.

But Australian federal police commissioner Andrew Colvin said: "In terms of events that we have seen over the past few years in Australia, this certainly concerns me more than any other event that I've seen."

And what happens now?

Police believe the threat has been neutralised by the raids on five Melbourne premises.

Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said there will be extra police on the streets of Melbourne on Christmas Day to make the public feel safe.