Australian police say plot to attack sites in Melbourne on Christmas Day has been foiled

Three men have been charged following the counter terrorism operation

Australian police say plot to attack sites in Melbourne on Christmas Day has been foiled

Image: Victoria Police

A plot to attack prominent sites in Melbourne with a series of bombs on Christmas Day has been foiled by Australian security services.

Three men have been charged after seven people, all aged in their twenties, were arrested following raids across the city overnight.

Three people have been released without charge, while one other man remains in police custody.

The plot has been described as "an imminent terrorist event" inspired by Islamic State.

Victoria state Police Chief Commissioner Graham said: "Certainly (there was the) potential for quite a number of people to be injured or killed in this attack."

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said: "We do believe ... that we have removed this threat in its entirety."

The plot targeted high-profile locations in Australia's second largest city, including Federation Square, Flinders Street Station and St Paul's Cathedral "possibly on Christmas Day".

Several teenagers have been arrested in Australia in recent years and charged with terror-related offences, including five young men who police alleged were planning an attack at last year's centenary ANZAC Day commemorations.