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03 September 2011

Local fanatics plotting terror strikes as anniversary of September 11 attacks nears

455187-9-11.jpgHOME-grown extremists are actively considering launching terrorist attacks in Australia.

The latest intelligence also suggests sporting venues, transport hubs and other places of mass gatherings have become the favoured targets of terrorist planners, the Herald Sun reported.

"Clearly there are extremists now on our shores," Australian Federal Police counter-terrorism chief Steve Lancaster said.

"There are people out there who genuinely think about doing bad things, or support terrorist acts overseas."

In an interview with the Herald Sun to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Assistant Commissioner Lancaster also revealed:

POLICE have secretly foiled several potential terrorist threats in Australia by disrupting them at an early stage.

RELIGIOUS extremists who follow a distorted and militant interpretation of Islam are still the biggest threat to Australians.

IT is incredibly difficult for any agency to stop a lone terrorist who decides to walk into a crowded place with a gun or bomb.

TERRORIST groups al-Qa'ida and Jemaah Islamiyah remain powerful threats to Australia.

A Federal Government counter-terrorism White Paper warned last year that some Australians were known by authorities to subscribe to the violent jihadist message sprouted by Muslim extremists.

"Many of these individuals were born in Australia," it said.

"The emergence and activity of terrorist cells in Australia, inspired by the narrative espoused by al-Qaida, is likely to continue.

"Prior to the rise of self-styled jihadist terrorism fostered by al-Qaida, Australia itself was not a specific target. We now are."

Mr Lancaster said while he would rather do both, stopping a terrorist attack was more important than a successful prosecution.

"If even one person is injured or killed in a terrorist attack because you delayed too long, that would be inexcusable," he said.

"You have to make that decision of going in and disrupting. You make it absolutely clear to them that you are aware that something is going on, that you are not comfortable with it and that you want it to stop."

Mr Lancaster admitted the AFP had made mistakes in some aspects of the probe into falsely accused terrorism suspect Dr Mohamed Haneef in 2007, but it had learned valuable lessons from the Clarke inquiry that followed and had become a better force as a result.

"I can tell you the Haneef affair hurt the organisation. It had an enormous impact on morale within the organisation," he said.

"Our response to terrorism continues to evolve since September 11.

"It's a tricky balancing act between respecting the rights of individuals and taking appropriate action to prevent a terrorist act.

"We continue to err on the side of caution in our efforts to protect the community."

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/national/local-fanatics-plotting-t...

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