MOSCOW, September 19 (RIA Novosti), Andrey Getto - An alleged plot by the Islamic State (IS) to behead random people on the streets of Sydney, aroused unparalleled fears for national security and raised the issue of what modern terrorism is truly capable of.
On Thursday, some 800 Australian law enforcement officers ransacked their way through Sydney and its suburbs, raiding properties and detaining some 15 people, according to national media. Such extraordinary measures for Australia were triggered by what the authorities called a thwarted terrorism plot, orchestrated by the IS.
Law enforcers say the raids were caused by an intercepted phone call between Mohammad Ali Baryalei, a high-profile IS jihadist of Australian origins, and a Sydney resident called Omarjan Azari. The two Australian nationals allegedly discussed a plot to seize a random Australian on a city street and behead him on camera. The video would then be uploaded to the Web; just as the IS had done earlier in 2014.
IS has already shown the world its brutality by beheading 2 US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid worker David Cawthorne and uploading the videos of the executions to YouTube in August and September. However, using scare tactics on territories governed by Sharia law in is arguably very different from doing the same in one of the world’s most developed democracies.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott argued that the response to the shocking plot had to be as tough as possible.
“It needed to be a demonstration that we will respond with strength to any threat to our way of life and to our national security,” Abbott told the Seven Network TV channel on Friday.
The demonstration of strength continued with the Australian military ramping up security at all of its bases and also deploying troops to protect the parliament building in Canberra, usually patrolled by unarmed guards. The country also raised its terrorism threat level to the second-highest level.
For the first time, Australia’s counter-terrorism forces have used the extraordinary powers granted after the 2005 London bombings, to hold three suspects for 36 hours without charges.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione conveyed the tense atmosphere by saying the police will not tolerate “any misbehavior on the streets.”
All of this, plus the upcoming National Security Bill, unveiled in July, has caused raised eyebrows among some Australian politicians, who are claiming the country may have gone too far in its defensive posture.
“If the bill passes, ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organization) will have the power to authorize its agents to torture people as long as the torture does not involve murder, serious injury or the committing of a sexual offence against the person. These provisions are shameful. As a nation we should be better than this. Australia is engaged in a fight against barbarism, but that does not justify becoming barbarians ourselves,” Senator David Leyonhjelm told Fairfax Media on Thursday.
In 2013, two young Muslims hacked British soldier Lee Rigby to death on a London street in broad daylight. One of the attackers had links with al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, but the incident did not appear to have been planned in advance. This makes the case of Australian street violence plot unique – and horrific.
The IS has proclaimed a caliphate across territories seized in Iraq and Syria, becoming so powerful, that Washington plans to fight it along with a multinational coalition. IS propaganda has attracted at least 12,000 foreign militants, according to the US State Department. However, its capabilities may have been underestimated, which was best expressed by Australian Prime Minister Abbott, who noted "the regrettable reality is that to mount the kind of attacks which ISIL [IS] in Syria and in Iraq has in mind for Australia, all you need is a determined individual who will kill without compunction, a knife, an iPhone and a victim.”