Australian police shoot dead ‘terror suspect’
September 24 2014 10:19 PM
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Police patrol in front of the Sydney Opera House yesterday.

AFP/Sydney

Police in Melbourne have shot dead a “known terror suspect” who stabbed two officers, a day after the Islamic State group called for Muslims to indiscriminately kill Australians, officials said yesterday.

The 18-year-old, whose passport was cancelled a week ago on security grounds, was killed on Tuesday evening, having arrived at a police station on the outskirts of the city to attend a “routine” interview.

It came as tougher counter-terrorism laws were introduced to Australia’s parliament yesterday to combat the threat of foreign fighters, with a proposal to criminalise travel to known terror hotspots without a legitimate reason.

Terror suspect Abdul Numan Haider was met by two members of the Joint Counter Terrorism Team and greeted them with a handshake before pulling out a knife and attacking both men, with one stabbed in the head, neck and stomach.

One officer fired a single shot that killed him, police said, adding that the teenager was carrying two knives.

The Sydney Morning Herald said he had an IS flag with him and planned to behead officers and post the images online, although police would not confirm this.

“I can advise that the person in question was a known terror suspect who was a person of interest to law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan said, adding that the attack was unprovoked.

Both police officers were in a stable condition after undergoing surgery.

The attack came after IS militants released a statement Monday urging the indiscriminate killing of citizens of countries taking part in the

US-led coalition against the group, which has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Australia was singled out, along with the US, Canada and France. “Obviously, this indicates that there are people in our community who are capable of very extreme acts,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement.

Canberra this month raised its terror threat level and last week carried out large-scale raids in Sydney and Brisbane to disrupt an alleged plot by IS supporters to abduct and behead a member of the public.

The government believes up to 60 Australians are fighting alongside IS jihadists, while 20 have returned and at least another 100 are actively working to support the movement at home.

Underlying Western jitters about the threat they could pose, the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill introduced to Australia’s parliament would make it a crime to travel to places considered terror hotspots without a valid reason, such as aid work or journalism.

The offence would be punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The proposed changes also create a new offence of ‘advocating terrorism’ which would carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Victoria state police chief Ken Lay said the teenager “had one thing on his mind, and that was to do the most amount of harm to these two people as he could”.

“We were aware of this young man and had been for number of months. The fact that the joint counter-terrorism task force was doing work around him indicates our level of concern,” he added.

Haider was reportedly being investigated after unfurling an IS flag in a local shopping centre recently and posting inflammatory remarks on social media.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp said Haider’s family was from Afghanistan and he had links with the group Al Furqan in southeast Melbourne, which was targeted in terrorism raids by police in 2012.

The rise of IS and moves to tighten counter-terrorism laws have raised tensions in the Muslim community, with leaders yesterday detailing a backlash that has included several mosques being vandalised, while calling for restraint. “We call on everyone to exercise restraint and civility. We must not let emotion take over common sense,” said the grand mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed.

Australia has deployed 600 troops to the United Arab Emirates to join the international coalition gearing up for a campaign to eradicate the jihadists. It has also sent eight RAAF F/A18 combat aircraft.

 

Laws to criminalise travel to terror hotspots

Tougher counter-terror laws to crack down on foreign fighters were introduced to Australia’s parliament yesterday, that would make it a crime to travel to places considered terror hotspots.

The changes are in response to concerns by the government that some 60 Australians have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside jihadists, and could return home and commit violence.

The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill proposes to make it an offence to enter, or remain in, a so-called ‘declared area’ where the foreign minister is satisfied a terrorist organisation is engaged in hostile activity.

The law will not prevent a person travelling to an area for legitimate purposes such as providing humanitarian aid, in an official capacity for Australia or the UN, reporting on news events or visiting family.

But it notes that “those that travel to a declared area without a sole legitimate purpose or purposes might engage in a hostile activity with a listed terrorist organisation”. “These people may return from a declared area with enhanced capabilities which may be employed to facilitate terrorist or other acts in Australia.”

The offence will not operate retrospectively, and will carry a maximum penalty of 10 years’ in prison.

The proposed changes will go to parliament’s intelligence committee for review and they have until October 17 to consider them. The bill also creates a new offence of ‘advocating terrorism’ which would carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

It would apply to those who “intentionally counsel, promote, encourage or urge the doing of a terrorist act or the commission of a terrorism offence and the person is reckless as to whether another person will engage in or commit a terrorist act.”

Attorney-General George Brandis said the reforms addressed “the most pressing gaps” in Australia’s counter-terrorism legislation, particularly with regard to the emerging security threats posed by the return of fighters.

Opposition Labor spokesman Mark Dreyfus said his side of politics would readily support some measures, including a proposal to allow for the temporary suspension of passports to prevent people joining the conflict in Syria or Iraq.

But he said there were other elements, including those related to so-called designated terror hotspots, which he called unprecedented in Australian law and in need of greater scrutiny. The Australian Lawyers Alliance criticised some of the changes, saying citizens who travelled to places such as Syria and Iraq would be presumed to have terrorist links unless they could prove their innocence to a court upon their return. “The proposed legislation would also give police greater powers to arrest and detain Australian citizens to prevent a terrorist act,” it said.

 

 

 

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