Australia puts cops in parliament after more threats

2014-09-19 16:36
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks at a joint press conference with Australian federal police commissioner Andrew Colvin in Sydney. (Saeed Khan, AFP)

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks at a joint press conference with Australian federal police commissioner Andrew Colvin in Sydney. (Saeed Khan, AFP)

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Sydney - Australia announced on Friday the deployment of armed police inside parliament in the face of threats from extremists after foiling a plot by Islamic State jihadists for "demonstration executions" in the country.

"There will be armed federal police in and around our national parliament at all times," Prime Minister Tony Abbott told 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 in the capital 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."

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, one has been charged with terrorism-related offences 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 on Friday with more people expected to be charged.

Omarjan Azari, aged 22, was remanded in custody on Thursday, 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 jihadists 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 on Thursday that public beheadings had been ordered by ISIS militants.

'Demonstration executions'

"Earlier this week an Australian who is a senior ISIS operative in Syria instructed his networks here in Australia to look to commit demonstration executions," he told 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 ISIS jihadists, while another 100 are actively working to support the movement at home.

The prime minister played down fears the anti-terror crackdown would alienate Muslims.

Protestors marched on Thursday in Lakemba, a western Sydney suburb which is the centre of the city's Muslim community, to protest against police victimisation.

The prime minister said the demonstration was "much smaller than expected, only about a hundred" people and did not reflect the views of the wider community.

"The vast majority of Australian Muslims are absolutely first-class Australians," he said.

"They're committed to our country and they have no truck whatsoever with the misguided fanatics, with the bloodthirsty extremists who we've seen on our screens in the Middle East and who regrettably do include at least 60 Australians."

With police stepping up security under Operation Hammerhead, Abbott appealed to all Australians to carry on as normal and not be intimidated.

"The best way for people to respond to the threat of terror is to go about their normal lives. Terrorists want to scare us out of being ourselves."

Read more on:    isis  |  tony abbott  |  australia

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