Australian Arrests Show Islamic State Threat Lives On [Updated]

The world (most of it) breathed a sigh of relief earlier this year when the Islamic State’s caliphate in the Middle-East was finally crushed. But there are growing warnings against wishful thinking. IS may have been driven out of its former territory in Syria and Iraq, but that doesn’t mean it is anywhere near being defeated.

Security concerns in the immediate wake of the collapse of the caliphate have been that the thousands of foreign fighters, after dispersing and bolting back to the countries they renounced, would resume local terrorist attacks. Tomorrow, Whaleoil will have a report on international warnings that the caliphate may be financially stronger than ever and ready to appear with even more startling suddenness and brutality than that with which it first emerged in 2014.

Right now, though, warnings of local Islamic State adherents mounting terror attacks seem to be coming to pass in Australia.

Churches, courthouses, police stations and defence buildings throughout Sydney’s CBD were the alleged targets of a new terror plot foiled by police on Tuesday.

That adds to the list of dozens of foiled Islamic terror attacks in Australia over the past decade. This one, like many others, such as the planned Federation Square attack, the “Barbie doll bomb” plot, planned Anzac Day massacres, and others, had the potential for shocking casualties. Australia has been very, very lucky, so far.

Three men including 20-year-old Issak el Matari, as well as a 23-year-old and 30-year-old, were arrested in police raids at homes in Sydney’s south-west on Tuesday morning.

The men are alleged to be supporters of Islamic State and police said the trio were in the early stages of planning an attack.

Police however stressed that there was no imminent threat to the public.

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Speaking at a NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team press conference in Sydney this afternoon, AFP Assistant Commissioner Ian McCartney said the men, aged 20, 23 and 30, would be charged with a range of “serious offences”, from being a member of a terrorist organisation, Islamic State, acts in preparation of a terrorist attack in Australia, and preparations to enter a foreign country with the intent of hostile activities…

“We were satisfied up until this morning when the arrest was made that this man had not moved to finalise his plans in relation to this terrorist attack.”

Police will also allege that one of the men, a 20-year-old, made preparations and was willing to travel to Afghanistan to fight for Islamic State, and that he had been monitored for the last year since he returned to Australia from Lebanon.

This should be a wake-up call that the threat of Islamic State terrorism in Australia is far from over.

Well, it should be. Expect the usual chorus of protests that the AFP are unfairly targeting a minority community, and the usual hand-wringing and denial from celebrities and community leaders.

“There are still those within the community who wish us harm and the community of Australia harm…

Mr Willing said the men knew each other via social media, and confirmed their plans involved importing weapons and explosives.

The arrests came after six counter terrorism raids were conducted in Canada Bay, Chester Hill, Greenacre, Green Valley, Ingleburn and Toongabbi in Sydney this morning.

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But, if warnings from foreign policy observers and think-tanks are to be believed, this may well just be the tip of the looming threat of a resurgent Islamic State caliphate.

UPDATE:

One of the alleged plotters was apparently placed into a “deradicalisation” program last year, after being detained in Lebanon, where he was believed to be planning to cross into Syria to fight for Islamic State.

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