Australian authorities on Tuesday announced that the terror threat level against its police is being raised to “high” to bring it in line with the national terror threat level for the general public. The country’s national alert level was raised to "high" -- the second-highest in a four-tier system -- in September last year, in response to domestic threats posed by the Islamic State group.
“The factors that lead to the elevated terrorism threat level for Australia to high in September 2014 persist and the security environment remains increasingly complex and challenging. Recent events in France, Canada and Australia serve as a sobering reminder of the risks associated with policing,” the Australian Federal Police said, in a statement released Tuesday.
Australia, which is a part of the U.S.-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, has been on high alert for attacks by homegrown jihadists and Australian nationals returning from the Middle East after training with the militant group. According to estimates by the Australian government, at least 70 Australian nationals are believed to have joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria so far.
In December last year, two hostages and a gunman -- an Iran-born Australian national named Man Haron Monis -- were killed after police stormed a café in Sydney. Although the gunman had been acting alone, he had reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
However, Ian Stewart, Queensland’s police commissioner, said that there was no single incident that had led to the raising of the threat level for the police, according to a report by The Guardian.
“There is still no known specific threat against any person or place right now in this state that I know of ... I want to make that very very clear,” he reportedly said.
In the statement, the Australian police added that the country is under threat from an “increasing numbers of Australians who are connected with or inspired by overseas terrorist groups” who have the “intent and capability” to carry out attacks against the police.
The announcement comes amid heightened security across Europe in the wake of attacks by alleged al Qaeda militants in France two weeks ago. Seventeen people were killed in the attacks that targeted the office of Charlie Hebdo -- a French satirical newspaper -- and during a hostage crisis at a kosher supermarket in Paris.