The Cairns Post

Teens’ link to terrorists


AUSTRALIAN teens are planning and negotiatin­g with others online to carry out “catastroph­ic terror attacks”, while the pandemic has made it “easier” for extremists to recruit members, the nation’s top cop has warned.

Australian Federal Police Commission­er Reece Kershaw has told a Senate Estimates hearing that the threat of terrorism in Australia remained at “probable”, but there had been some “significan­t shifts, in the diversity and complexity of the environmen­t”, since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

“The threat of terrorism has not dissipated,” he said.

“In fact, the pandemic, extended lockdowns and more time spent online, has in some cases, made it easier for extremists to recruit.”

Mr Kershaw said increased “anti-government sentiment”, the proliferat­ion of conspiracy theories, physical isolation and more time spent online had increased the terror threat in Australia.

Mr Kershaw said children as young as 13 who felt isolated and had retreated into the online world were connecting with extremists.

“We need parents and carers to understand who their children are communicat­ing with online,” he said.

“I implore parents to call the AFP if they are worried their child is being targeted by individual­s with extremist views. Early interventi­on can divert children from this path. Where possible, we want to keep youth out of the criminal justice system.”

Mr Kershaw said the community could be reassured the

Joint Counter Terrorism Teams, made up of the AFP, ASIO, state and territory police, had maintained efforts to ensure public safety, particular­ly through the Covid period.

He said religiousl­y motivated violent extremism (RMVE) remained “the biggest threat”.

“Eighty-five per cent of investigat­ions relate to RMVE, while the remaining 15 per cent relate to ideologica­lly motivated violent extremism,” Mr Kershaw said.

“The IMVE cohort is extremely interconne­cted, especially online. Their views are diverse and include support for nationalis­ts, white-supremacy and Neo-Nazism.”

Mr Kershaw said another challenge for the AFP was managing the “significan­t” threat of terrorist offenders released from Australian jails.

Eighteen terrorist offenders are scheduled for release from prison before 2026, and 54 are due for release by 2060.

Since February 2019, the AFP has applied for and obtained more control orders than in the 15 years prior.

Mr Kershaw revealed seven individual­s had been arrested and charged for breaching the conditions of their control orders since July 2020.

“The community safety risk posed by the reintegrat­ion of convicted terrorist offenders into the community will be an ongoing challenge,” he said.

“I won’t go into the numbers of police and cost involved to monitor these offenders; however, this is a significan­t investment of police resources.”

“The AFP has establishe­d a dedicated … capability to manage the risk of terrorist offenders,” he said.

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