Australia has disrupted four major terror plots since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Attorney-General Robert McClelland said Tuesday as he warned of a continued threat posed by home-grown extremists.
Australia has been spared an attack in the decade since the surprise assaults on the US which killed close to 3,000, but McClelland said the danger of a home-grown terror incident was ever present.
“Most Australians think that if we were to be attacked, it would probably be perpetrated by a foreign operative,” he wrote in an opinion article marking the upcoming tenth anniversary of the world-changing events in the US.
“In fact, in the decade since 9/11, there have been four major terrorist plots disrupted in Australia. Thirty-seven of 38 people prosecuted for these acts have been Australian citizens, with 21 of the 38 born in Australia.”
McClelland did not detail the cases but they are believed to include that of Algerian-born Muslim cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika who led a Melbourne terror cell which plotted to kill thousands.
In Sydney, five Muslim men were convicted in 2009 of conspiring to commit a terror attack using guns and explosives on an unknown target to protest against Australia's part in the “war on terror.”
And in 2006, Pakistan-born architect and Australian citizen Faheem Khalid Lodhi was jailed after being found guilty of planning to blow up Sydney's electricity grid.
More recently, three Australians with links to al-Shabab extremists in Somalia were accused of conspiring to attack Sydney’s Holsworthy army base.
McClelland said that more than 100 Australians have been killed in terror attacks overseas since the shocking events in the United States a decade ago, many in the 2002 bomb blasts at a Bali nightclub strip.
But he added advice from security experts was that the greatest threat to Australia was from home-grown extremism.
“While the death of Osama bin Laden was an important milestone in the international fight against terrorism, we need to realize that al-Qaeda’s ability to adapt and change its leadership endures,” McClelland said.
“That’s why the government focus is both on strong counter-terrorism law enforcement measures but also on reducing the risk of home-grown terrorism,” he added, stating close work with the community could weaken the appeal of radical ideology.