Australia spy chief: No evidence of imminent threat

Colours of French flag projected on to the Sydney Opera House. 15 Nov 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The colours of the French flag were projected on to the Sydney Opera House following the Paris attacks

Australia's top spy has said there is no evidence of large-scale militant attacks planned against the country.

However, the director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio), Duncan Lewis, said there could be no guarantee of safety from extremist violence in the future.

Mr Lewis was speaking after the Paris attacks in which 129 people died.

The Islamic State (IS) militant group has said it was behind the attacks and warned of further violence.

Mr Lewis told Australian broadcaster ABC that while there was no evidence of a specific threat against Australia similar to the attacks in Paris, the number of potential threats had increased in recent years.

"We have had three attacks involving fatalities and six thwarted attacks in the past 12 months," he said.

"To put that in some sort of historic perspective, that represents just over a third of the attacks or planned attacks that we've had in this country over the last 15 years."

Asio - Australia's domestic security agency - increased the National Terrorism Public Alert Level from medium to high in September last year. This signifies that an attack is "likely".

Mr Lewis said this had been reviewed following the Paris attacks but that there were no plans to move it to the highest level of "extreme" which indicates an attack is imminent.

"If you consider there have been three successful attacks in Australia since that time, then I think that the threat level of 'likely' is most appropriate.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Two hostages died in a siege in Sydney last December

"We have no specific information leading us to believe there is any imminent threat of an attack presently, it is not appropriate for us to move the threat level to the next elevated position.

"This is very important for Australians to realise, we have no specific information about any particular attack planning in this country that would be reflective of what happened in France," he said.

In October. 15-year-old Muslim boy Farhad Jabar shot dead New South Wales police worker Curtis Cheng as the accountant left a police building in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta.

This came after the Sydney siege incident in December last year in which two hostages were killed, and the shooting of an 18-year-old man in Victoria who wounded counter-terrorism officers outside a police station.

Australia is part of a US-led coalition bombing IS positions in Iraq and Syria and has sent soldiers to help train members of the Iraqi national army.

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