Australia should establish a British-style rapid response anti-terror unit with powers to track people on terrorist watch lists to prevent more extremist attacks, a counter-terrorism expert says following Melbourne’s Bourke Street stabbing.
Dr Allan Orr, who is writing a book about Sydney’s Lindt Cafe siege, said such a specialist police taskforce would be armed with high powered weapons have access to helicopters.
“In the UK these frontline officers don’t deal with anything else but counter-terrorism, so they’ve got their playbook down to response times of two minutes,” he told Fairfax Media on Monday.
The Islamic community is being called on to help Australian authorities prevent further terrorist attacks after Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, who was known to intelligence agencies, crashed a car full of gas cylinders in Melbourne’s Bourke Street on Friday before fatally stabbing prominent Italian restaurateur Sisto Malaspina and injuring two others.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Sunday said police and other government agencies could not stop spontaneous acts of terror without tip-off or alerts from the public.
Shire Ali was known to federal police and had his passport cancelled in 2015 amid fears the Somali-born man planned to travel to Syria to fight with Islamic State.
“It is important for us to get as much information from the imams, from spouses, family members, community members, council workers, people that might be interacting with those that might have changed their behaviours, that they think have been radicalised,” Mr Dutton said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Islamic leaders to call out extremism in their communities.
His remarks were labelled divisive by Muslim leaders who say their communities aren’t to blame for the actions of one individual.
“It is extremely disappointing in such difficult times and during a national tragedy, when all Australians of all faiths and backgrounds should be called upon to unite and stand together against any form of extremism and violence, to see our nation’s leader politicising this incident and using it for political gain,” the Australian National Imams Council said in a statement on Sunday.
The family of the attacker say he mental health problems.
“Hassan suffered from mental illness for years and refused help. He’s been deteriorating these past few months,” they said in a note given to Nine Network.
“Please stop turning this into a political game. This isn’t a guy who had any connections with terrorism but was simply crying for help.”
Shire Ali was shot in the chest by a police officer and later died in hospital.
Mr Dutton says the government’s community engagement programs have provided critical intelligence that has helped stop other attacks, but that there were still gaps in information.
Hundreds of individuals are under the watchful eyes of authorities and talks on how to improve monitoring in the wake of last week’s attack are underway, he added.
Lifeline 13 11 14
beyondblue 1300 22 4636