Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Australia arms police in parliament

POTENTIAL ATTACK:The Australian prime minister denied he in particular had been targeted by the Islamic State, but said there was a general threat on government

AFP, SYDNEY

Australia yesterday announced the deployment of armed police inside the national parliament in the face of threats from extremists after foiling a plot by supporters of the Islamic State group to carry out “demonstration executions” in the country.

“There will be armed federal police in and around our national parliament at all times,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at a press conference. “Earlier this month I was advised of chatter among these terrorist networks of a potential attack on government, government people, parliament house.”

He said he ordered an urgent security review in response, which recommended tighter measures at parliament house in Canberra.

“Implementation is now taking place and as a result of that Australian Federal Police will be in charge of not just the external security of parliament house but the internal security as well,” he added.

Previously security was handled by in-house parliamentary security officers.

Abbott backed away from comments made earlier in the day suggesting that he himself was a specific target.

He said he was “not aware that specific individuals have been named ... but certainly government, government people, and parliament have been referred to.”

Abbott said he was not concerned about his own safety.

“I am concerned for the safety of the Australian people. It’s not about me ... it’s about the safety of the Australian people.”

His remarks came after hundreds of police officers staged a pre-dawn operation across Sydney and Brisbane on Thursday. Of the 15 people detained in the operation, one has been charged with terrorism-related offenses and nine released, police said. At least one gun was seized, along with a sword.

Abbott said an attack had been feared “within days” and police investigations were continuing yesterday with more people expected to be charged. Omarjan Azari, 22, was remanded in custody yesterday, charged with planning a terrorist act that prosecutors alleged was designed to “shock, horrify and terrify” the community.

The prosecution alleged the plan involved the “random selection of persons to rather gruesomely execute” on camera. The Islamic State have in recent weeks broadcast video footage of three foreign nationals being beheaded in Syria.

The raids came a week after Australia lifted the terror threat level to “high” for the first time in a decade on growing concern about militants returning from fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Abbott expanded on his comments yesterday that public beheadings had been ordered by militants of the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“Earlier this week an Australian who is a senior ISIL operative in Syria instructed his networks here in Australia to look to commit demonstration executions,” he said on Seven television. “Because we believed that a demonstration execution was likely quickly, we acted as we did to disrupt this particular network.”

The government believes up to 60 Australians are fighting alongside the Islamic State, while another 100 are actively working to support the movement at home.

Abbott played down fears the anti-terror crackdown would alienate Muslims. Protesters marched yesterday in Lakemba, a western Sydney suburb which is the center of the city’s Muslim community, to protest against police victimization.

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