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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Australia degrades national terror threat level after 6 years

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s terror threat level has been downgraded from “probable” to “possible” for the first time since 2014, the head of the country’s main spy agency said Monday.

The defeat of Islamic State in the Middle East battle and al Qaeda’s ineffective propaganda machine failing to connect with Western youth has led to fewer extremists in Australia, Australian Security Intelligence Service director-general Mike Burgess said.

“That doesn’t mean the threat is gone,” Burgess said. “It remains likely that someone will die at the hands of a terrorist in Australia over the next 12 months,” he added.

Australia has seen a rise in radical nationalism and right-wing extremist ideology in the past few years, Burgess said.

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“Individuals still fantasize about killing other Australians, they still spew their hateful ideologies in chat rooms and they still hone their skills with bomb-making research and weapons training,” Burgess said.

There have been 11 terror attacks and another 21 plots disrupted since the threat rating was raised from “possible” to “probable” in 2014, he said. Half of the foiled plots were in the first two years of increased risk, when the Islamic State group was more prominent.

Since 2014, there have also been 153 terrorism-related charges in Australia from 79 counter-terrorism operations.

Burgess warned that it was almost guaranteed that the threat level would rise again.

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However, this would not necessarily be the result of a terrorist attack, with the overall security assessment taking into account individuals acting alone, he said.

People are being radicalized online at an extreme rate, sometimes over weeks or months, he said.

But there are fewer groups that plan months or years of sophisticated terror attacks with the goal of maximum destruction, he said.

More than 50 people convicted of terror offenses are also due to be released in the future, but only a small proportion will be released by 2025, Burgess said.

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