Crime & Justice

Australia downgrades terror threat level for first time in 8 years

Sydney, Australia, Nov 28 (EFE).- Australia on Monday reduced its terror alert level from “probable” – which had been in place since 2014 – to “possible,” bringing it down to the second-lowest rung of the five-level scale, in response to the perceived drop in the risk of the country being attacked by the Islamic State or other extremist groups.

The National Terrorism Threat Advisory System – which includes five threat levels of certain, expected, probable, possible and not expected – was updated in the national security website on Monday, although the advisory said that Australia still faced the risk of extremist violence, especially by “nationalist and racist” groups and individuals.

The head of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, Mike Burgess, said in a speech in Canberra on Monday that “while Australia remains a potential terrorist target, there are fewer extremists with the intention to conduct an attack onshore than there were when we raised the threat level in 2014.”

He added that since then, 11 terror attacks had taken place in the country, while authorities had detected and thwarted 21 “significant terror plots” on Australian soil, as per a transcript of the speech shared on the ASIO website.

According to the text, the risk of attacks by Islamist terrorists had “dissipated, (but) not disappeared,” as groups like IS continue to try and recruit new members and radicalize them.

Burgess also highlighted the growing presence of individuals and groups promoting conspiracy theories and far-right ideology in the last two years, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While some individuals used violent rhetoric and some protests involved violence, we did not identify acts of terrorism,” he clarified.

In Australia – where the majority of attacks have been carried out in Melbourne and Sydney by Islamists armed with knives or firearms – over 50 people have been convicted of terrorism since 2014, and only a handful of them will be released by 2025.

A part of the population has expressed concern over the repatriation of a group of women and minors who had been detained in Syrian refugee camps, although Burgess believes they did not pose a significant risk to national security.

Australia had raised its terror alert level to high in 2014 on ASIO’s recommendation in response to actions by religious extremist groups, mainly the IS, and a rise in its recruits within the country aiming to carry out local attacks or to joing fighting in Iraq and Syria.

However, the following year, authorities changed the terror threat advisory system to its current five-level structure. EFE


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