Australia 'faces permanent alert'
04:41 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has warned that his country is now under a permanent and increased threat of militant attack.
He also announced plans to fingerprint and face-scan visitors from 10 high-risk countries.
Mr Rudd said there was a growing threat from Islamist radicals born or raised in Australia.
Last week, five Australians of foreign origin received heavy sentences for conspiring to launch a jihadist attack.
Mr Rudd said that many “home-grown terrorists” were inspired by what he called international jihadist narratives, as he released a new report compiled by intelligence agencies.
“The threat of home-grown terrorism is now increasing,” he said.
“This white paper is clear: some of the threat we now face comes from the Australian-born, Australian-educated and Australian residents.”
Al-Qaida-linked groups in Yemen and Sudan are the new centre of threat internationally, the policy paper says, and the risks posed by Afghanistan and Pakistan remain high.
The paper says that, despite Indonesia's successes against terrorism, the Jakarta hotel attacks of last July point to an ongoing threat there.
“Terrorism continues to pose a serious threat and a serious challenge to Australia's security interests. That threat is not diminishing,” Mr Rudd said.
“In fact, the government security intelligence agencies assess that terrorism has become a persistent and permanent feature of Australia's security environment. These agencies warn that an attack could occur at any time.”
Australia will spend A$69m ($62m; 40m) on new biometric facilities and will set up a national control centre to co-ordinate efforts to fight extremism.
The government also plans to work with communities to stamp out radicalism by helping all ethnic groups integrate better with mainstream society.
Last week five Australian citizens of Lebanese, Libyan and Bangladeshi origin were jailed for up to 28 years for gathering weapons in preparation for an attack on an unknown target.
In August, five men with alleged links to Somalia's al-Shabab militants were arrested and charged over an alleged plot to attack a Sydney military barracks.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said about 40 people have been arrested in Australia on terror charges since 2000.
“Whilst the numbers are small… it only takes one to get through,” he said, adding that the techniques used by home-grown militants were evolving.
“We are now seeing emerging the potential so-called lone wolf escapade where we don't have sophisticated planning but an individual is seduced by the international jihad and as a lone wolf does extreme things,” he told ABC radio.
He said the 10 countries to face more stringent entry procedures would not be named yet. “There may be a diplomatic effort required in regards to some of those countries, as you would expect,” he said.
Australia is a close ally of the United States. It was among the first to commit troops to US-led campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It has not suffered a major peacetime attack on home soil, but 95 Australians have been killed in militant bombings in neighbouring Indonesia since 2001.
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