Australian citizens continue to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, and this trend has been identified as a national security priority. In mid-September 2014, the Australian federal government raised the National Terrorism Public Alert from “medium” to “high,” citing the foreign fighter threat. Within a week, the country experienced its largest ever counterterrorism operation, when a series of raids by more than 800 federal and state police officers uncovered an alleged terrorist plot, reportedly instigated by a senior Australian member of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Security was also enhanced at the Parliament House following “chatter” about a potential attack.
This article details developments in Australian jihadist activity in Syria and Iraq during the past year, updating an article from the November 2013 issue of the CTC Sentinel. It outlines the changing threat within Australia, as well as some of the countermeasures enacted by the Australian government. It finds that Australia faces an increasingly complex threat. Australian citizens continue to be involved in ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra, including in senior positions, and potential domestic plots have been uncovered. The Australian federal government has responded to the evolving threat with increased security measures, extra resources for police and intelligence services, and a problematic push for extensive new powers.