CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (TIP): The Islamic State plot to carry out random beheadings in Sydney alleged by police is a simple and barbaric scheme that has shaken Australians. But terrorism experts on September 19 questioned whether the ruthless movement had the capacity or inclination to sustain a terror campaign so far from the Middle East. Police said they thwarted a plot to carry out beheadings in Australia by Islamic State group supporters when they raided more than a dozen properties across Sydney on Thursday.

Two of the 15 suspects detained by police were charged on Thursday, officials said. Nine others were freed before the day was over. Prime Minister Tony Abbott conceded it was difficult to safeguard the Australian population against such attacks. “The regrettable reality is that to mount the kind of attacks which ISIS 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,” Abbott told Seven Network television on Friday, using a name that Islamic State no longer goes by, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Some terrorism experts saw the plot as a potential shift in Islamic State’s focus from creating an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. Others said it is more likely a symptom of policy confusion within a disparate group. “If you have people coming in from different backgrounds from all these countries, when it comes to policy making, they’re going to fight each other, they’re going to kill each other,” said Samuel Makinda, professor of International Relations and Security Studies at Murdoch University.

“On ISIS, I see no direct threat to Australia or to any other country at the moment except those in the Middle East,” he added, using the movement’s former name, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The raids involving 800 federal and state police officers — the largest in the country’s history — came in response to intelligence that an Islamic State group leader in Syria was calling on Australian supporters to kill, Abbott said.

The raids sparked protests by hundreds of Muslims in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba on Thursday night, where speakers accused the government of exploiting public fear in a bid to get contentious counterterrorism laws through Parliament. Abbott said Friday that police were taking over security at Parliament House in Canberra, telling Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio that the building, “government and government people” had been identified as targets.

With national grand finals approaching in Rugby League and Australian Rules Football — among the country’s most popular sports — police have said security will be stepped up at sports arenas and other public venues where people gather in large numbers. Greg Barton, a Monash University global terrorism expert, said that Islamic State could be starting to direct its global followers to take the fight to their home communities in a bid to usurp al-Qaida’s position as the leading global jihadist network. The movement could eventually mount attacks in Australia like the attack last year by militant group al- Shabaab gunmen on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that claimed 67 lives, Barton said.


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