Australia is now at a heightened risk of a terror attack in the wake of the Brereton report into alleged SAS war crimes.
Daily Mail Australia understands intelligence agencies fear the damning 465-page document which uncovered 39 unlawful killings allegedly committed by 25 elite special forces soldiers in Afghanistan will make Australian capital cities and international embassies a prime target for Islamic terror groups.
There are also concerns the shocking findings will be used as a recruitment tool for jihadi militants around the world to stoke hatred against Australians.
Australia is now at a heightened risk of a terror attack in the wake of the Brereton report into alleged SAS war crimes (stock image). It is not suggested any of the persons shown are in any way involved in any war crimes
Major General Paul Brereton’s investigation took four and a half years to scrutinise the conduct of special forces soldiers between 2005 and 2016 (pictured: special forces search a village at Musazai in the Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan)
‘I know our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are going to be very vigilant about new intel,’ head of counter-terrorism at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Leanne Close told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The joint counter-terrorism team comprising of Federal Police, State Police and other groups are looking at the kinds of people in this country who are most at risk of being radicalised or who are already radicalised and need monitoring.’
Much of the concern stems from similar instances overseas where terror groups used high-profile incidents as a call to action for fundamentalist sympathisers.
Head of counter-terrorism at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Leanne Close told Daily Mail Australia
France has been plagued by a wave of terror attacks since 2015, when the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo depicted the Prophet Muhammad on its front cover – an act some Muslims consider blasphemy.
Militant Islamists shot dead 11 people who worked at the magazine’s Paris office in January that year, before also murdering a policemen outside.
Since then dozens of attacks across Europe have been carried out by ‘Islamo-facists’ with terror groups using the cartoon saga as a recruitment tool to spark anger among followers.
In recent weeks major terror attacks have taken place in Paris, Nice and Vienna.
‘It is a concern that these kinds of things can heighten an individual’s motivation to commit terror attacks,’ Close said.
‘Even with the threat of ISIS diminishing in recent years, the danger hasn’t gone away.
‘There are about 18,000 people in the Middle East who are still working in support of ISIS and their ideology.’
Three people were killed in a terror attack in the French city of Nice in October (pictured, emergency services arrive on scene)
Armed police stand guard outside the secondary school where a French teacher was beheaded in a terror attack near Paris in October
People light candles outside the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Basilica in Nice following an Islamist terror attack
ISIS and al-Qaeda linked groups appear to be growing in strength closer to home in south-east Asia.
Global security expert Doctor Rohan Gunaratna recently warned the Australian government that since March, there has been a decline in the number of terror attacks, but a dramatic increase in the footprint of these groups.
‘Radicalisation has peaked during this period because many of these groups have been active online trying to co-opt people (during the Covid-19 pandemic),’ he told the Daily Telegraph.
Indonesian authorities have also advised regional allies – including Australia – that al-Qaeda are now decentralised in some parts and are looking to recruit in numbers.
Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah (JI), who were behind the 2002 Bali bombing, have reportedly increased their presence in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Other JI members have joined the pro-Islamic State group in Indonesia Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD), who were linked to the 2019 deadly cathedral bombing in the Philippines.
A leading terrorism expert said ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked groups appear to be growing in strength in south-east Asia
Australian capital cities and international embassies are prime targets for Islamic terror groups (pictured Melbourne’s Flinders Steet Station and the Sydney Opera House)
The bombshell report outlines how Australian soldiers are accused of engaging in body count competitions, torturing civilians, as well as allegations of drug and alcohol abuse.
Major General Paul Brereton’s investigation took four and a half years to scrutinise the conduct of special forces soldiers between 2005 and 2016.
The findings point to a culture of violence, mistreatment of war prisoners, and secrecy that allegedly covered up executions.
In light of what has been labelled the ‘most shameful episode in Australia’s military history’, two SAS squadrons have been disbanded, and thousands of soldiers could now be stripped of their medals and potentially be prosecuted for war crimes.
One heavily redacted section of the report alleges SAS soldiers slit the throats of two 14-year-old boys deemed to be ‘Taliban sympathisers’, and threw their bodies in a nearby river.
The findings point to a culture of violence, mistreatment of war prisoners and secrecy
Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell apologised for the unlawful killings of prisoners, farmers and other civilians, when the finding were made public.
DISTURBING DETAILS ALLEGED IN REPORT:
Blooding: There was evidence junior soldiers were required by their patrol commanders to shoot a prisoner in a practice known as ‘blooding’ to achieve their first kill.
Throwdowns: Credible evidence suggests some soldiers carried ‘throw downs’, where they left weapons and military equipment on a victim to make it appear the person killed was a legitimate target.
‘To the people of Afghanistan on behalf of the Australian Defence Force I sincerely and unreservedly apologise for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers,’ he said.
‘And to the people of Australia, I am sincerely sorry for any wrongdoing by members of the Australian Defence Force.’
Mr Campbell said ‘none of the alleged unlawful killings were described as being in the heat of battle’.
As well as the risk of home-grown and domestic terror attacks, Australian embassies could also be a major target of Jihadis.
‘Embassies have got great security approaches and risk planning for a whole range of scenarios,’ Ms Close said.
‘In the middle east the threat of terrorism is always very high so they would have been working through national security processes to prepare their people and make sure they are more vigilant.
‘Of course, Afghanistan is the difficult place for our people to be working. They’ve always been a target and need to remain extremely careful in terms of security.’
But while concern among counter-terrorism agencies is growing, Ms Close doesn’t expect the threat warning to rise unless there was a serious incident in Australia.
Australian Defence Force chief Angus Campbell (pictured) apologised for the unlawful killings of prisoners, farmers and other civilians
Mr Campbell said ‘none of the alleged unlawful killings were described as being in the heat of battle’
Australia’s terrorism threat level has remained at Probable since the rise of ISIS in 2014, which sits at number three on the five-point warning system.
‘Raising the threat level means that the government, communities, industries, the aviation sector and more would have to implement additional safety procedures,’ Ms Close said.
Although authorities failed to stop the Sydney Lindt cafe siege that left three people dead in 2014, Australian counter-terrorism agencies thwarted 15 terror plots when ISIS where at their height between 2014 to 2016.
The attacks included everything from public killing sprees, beheadings and a plot to blow up the MCG on AFL Grand Final day.
In the years since then there has been a total of seven terror attacks on Australian soil including the 2018 Melbourne stabbing attack carried out a Somali immigrant who stabbed three pedestrians, killing one, on Bourke Street.
The ISIS-inspired killer also set fire to his vehicle before being shot dead by police.
Hassan Khalif Shire Ali set fire to his vehicle before luring Melburnians into his web of evil
Martin Place and surrounding streets were sent into lock down while the Police Tactical Operations Unit spent 16 hours trying to negotiate with Monis
People run with their hands up from the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place during a hostage standoff
The alleged crimes: A timeline
* First recorded alleged murder of wounded Afghan prisoner
* Alleged murders of Afghan locals by ADF members with complicity of patrol commander
* Alleged assault and cruel treatment of Afghan prisoner
* Alleged murders of Afghan prisoners with complicity of patrol commander and deletion of evidence to conceal killings
* Various instances of alleged civilian murders by Australian soldiers
* Several alleged murders of prisoners and use of ‘throwdowns’ to conceal killings
* Alleged murders of Afghan locals surrendering to Australian troops
* Alleged assault and cruel treatment of Afghan prisoner
* Alleged murders of Afghan combatants separated from their weapons
* Alleged murder of civilians
* Alleged murder of prisoners
* Inspector-General of ADF asked to investigate rumours of misconduct and war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan
* Justice Paul Brereton and his team interviewed more than 400 witnesses and examined tens of thousands of documents during four-year review
* Justice Brereton finalises inquiry
* Chief of Defence Angus Campbell published highly-redacted version of final report
* Credible evidence 25 current and former ADF personnel have committed war crimes
* 19 allegations referred to Australian Federal Police for possible prosecution
* 39 Afghans believed to have been murdered by Australian troops between 2006 and 2016