We look at terrorism-related events in Australia since September 2014 to gauge just how serious the problem of homegrown radicalisation is shaping up to be.
1. An 18-year-old from Queensland’s Darling Downs region fled his home town and joined the Al-Nusra Front terrorist organisation. Oliver Bridgeman fled Toowoomba this month, and news of this latest Islamist recruit was confirmed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) on 15 May. The initial reports claimed that the teenager tricked his family into allowing him to leave. Bridgeman told his parents that he was traveling to Indonesia for aid work, where he continued on.
2. Just prior to Australia celebrating its most poignant national commemorative holiday on 25 April – ANZAC Day – five teenagers were arrested during anti-terrorism raids across Melbourne. The teenagers have been accused of planning a terrorist attach which was inspired by Islamic State calls for domestic terror attacks in Australia. About 200 police officers raided seven properties in an effort to foil the alleged plot, which involved a serious attack at an ANZAC Day parade with the aim of killing, or causing serious injury to, several people.
3. Doctor Tareq Kamleh is one of Australia’s latest Islamic State recruits now working for the terrorist organisation in Syria. Doctor Kamleh, a former pediatric registrar, has appeared in an Islamic State propaganda video urging other medical professionals to join him. He discusses how he felt the move was part of his personal jihad to provide medical support to the Muslims who are suffering as part of the conflict.
4. Melbourne teenager Jake Bilardi, who left Australia to fight with the Islamic State, allegedly blew himself up as part of a wave of car bombings in Iraq last month. The news, broken on March 12, claimed that Bilardi was part of a coordinated attack on the government-held area of Ramadi in western Iraq.
5. March also saw two brothers, aged 16 and 17, detained at Sydney Airport. They were traveling to the Middle East to fight alongside the Islamic State group.
6. February saw police curtail an imminent terrorist attack in Australia with the arrest of two men, aged 24 and 25, after an anti-terrorism raid in Sydney’s west. Police seized a homemade flag associated with Daesh, a machete, a hunting knife, and a video which showed one of the men kneeling in front of the flag making threats and politically motivated statements consistent with Daesh messaging. Whilst authorities have not released the exact content of the video, they did state that the man had threatened to commit “violent acts” with those weapons seized.
7. The month of January saw two men arrested after separate anti-terror raids also in Sydney’s west. The men, who were not co-accused and have not yet been charged with terrorism offenses, were found to have shot guns, rifles, and ammunition in their possession.
8. In December, Man Haron Monis took 18 people hostage inside the Lindt café in downtown Sydney. The siege lasted for 16 hours and two people would eventually lose their life in the ordeal. Once the siege unfolded, one of Monis’s first demands was to be brought an ‘Islamic State’ flag. In fact, the very first images to be streamed live around the world were of hostages holding up a black Shahada flag in the café window which states: “There is no god but Allah; Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah.” The headband that Monis was photographed wearing through the window translated into the war cry: “We are ready to sacrifice for you, O Muhammad.”
9. In September, the government raised the terrorism alert to high, and on the morning of 18 September, police across the states of Queensland and New South Wales carried out the largest counterterrorism operation in Australian history. More than 800 heavily armed officers and Police Tactical Groups (PTGs) were involved, 25 homes were raided, 15 people were detained, and one person was charged with terrorism-related offenses.
10. Five days later, on 23 September, an 18-year-old Victorian man, Numan Haider, was shot dead by police after he stabbed the two officers he had voluntarily agreed to meet for questioning on separate terrorism-related concerns. Police found a second, larger knife on him, as well as a Daesh flag in his pocket.
11. More raids were conducted in the state of Victoria on 30 September after a joint operation involving the FBI and Australian Federal Police (AFP) uncovered evidence that a 23-year-old Australian man was financing a US citizen fighting in Syria.
In the past, the most notable Australian terrorist incidences occurred many years apart. On the 4 August 2009, four men with links to the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabaab were arrested and charged with plotting to infiltrate Holsworthy Barracks with automatic weapons and to kill as many military personnel as possible.
The 2005 Sydney terrorism plot saw five men arrested on charges planning an act of terrorism targeting the densely populated city of Sydney. Police raids of those charged uncovered bomb-making instruction, 28,000 rounds of ammunition, including 11,000 rounds of 7.62x39mm, 12 rifles, extremist literature, and beheading footage, as well as 11 September propaganda. November 2005 also saw Melbourne man Abdul Nacer Benbrika, also known as Abu Bakr, and 12 other men arrested and charged with being members of a terrorist organisation and planning terrorist attacks on targets within Australia.
On the 26 October 2003, Australian citizen Faheem Khalid Lodhi was arrested and charged with plotting to bomb the national electricity grid and the Sydney-based defence establishments of Victoria Barracks, the naval base HMAS Penguin, as well as Holsworthy Barracks.
The last nine months are anything but a positive indication as to what the future may hold. Even though Australia has had a number of high-profile terrorism related convictions in the past, there is no precedence for the consistency of foiled or successful attacks like we are starting to see.
(Featured Image Courtesy: News.com.au)