Of which we can all rest assured at least 11 are Bible study groups for Anglican youth, right? “Top cop tells of shift in terror threat,” by Paul Maley for The Australian, March 9 (thanks to SSL):
The terror threat posed by extremists is alive and well, says the head of the NSW Police counter-terrorism team, whose officers are now investigating 12 cases.
Assistant Commissioner Peter Dein, chief of the NSW Police Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command, said the terror planners were moving away from traditional targets, such as critical infrastructure, towards “places of mass gathering”, such as transport hubs and sporting venues.
Just months after ASIO director-general David Irvine revealed that his agency was investigating hundreds of terrorism leads, Mr Dein said the number of live investigations hinted at the scale of the counter-terrorism challenge that still confronted authorities more than 10 years after the September 11 attacks on the US, and the destructive potential of violent extremists.
But he emphasised that none of his command’s 12 investigations was at the stage where it represented an imminent threat to the community.
Mr Dein said the investigations included cases such as the financing of terrorism overseas, membership of terrorist groups, an interest in leaving Australia and engaging in foreign military activity, and a number of threats directed at the local community “that we are yet to establish the severity of”.
Along with the Australian Federal Police, Mr Dein’s team is responsible for safeguarding the sprawling suburbs of southwestern Sydney, one of the main beachheads in the battle against home-grown extremism.
The 37-year veteran of the NSW police service outlined a threat that has moved out of the mosques and on to the internet, where self-styled radicals preach directly to vulnerable youth, away from the tempering influence of sheiks and clerics.
Mindful of the catastrophic consequences of failure, Mr Dein said his team chased down “hundreds and hundreds” of leads every year — leads that in any other crime type might not justify further inquiry.
“We spend a lot of time chasing leads that go nowhere,” he said.
Mr Dein said an increasing number of investigations undertaken by his team had an overseas dimension, with a rising number of suspects accessing extremist material online, such as al-Qa’ida’s English-language publication, Inspire.
The spiritual leader of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, US Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was an increasing feature of Mr Dein’s work.
“Anwar al-Awlaki is a very, very important person of interest for us,” Mr Dein said.
He said that although the overall danger posed by terrorism had not changed, the nature of the threat had, and police were increasingly concerned about the possibility of terrorists hitting soft targets such as sporting venues or transport hubs.
“It would be fair to say we’re giving more attention to places of mass gathering than we have at the beginning of this decade, most certainly,” Mr Dein said.
“We’ve recognised the fact that’s where the threat is.”