Australian police revealed on Thursday (15 October) that a 12-year-old boy is on the radar of the country's counter-terrorism authorities. The revelation comes just a day after the Australian government said it would strengthen its counter-terrorism laws.
A federal court has listed the 12-year-old boy and a group of men, who may have helped Farhad Jabar, 15, kill police employee Curtis Cheng on 2 October. Jabar was later killed by police officers. "We're shocked that a 12-year-old is on police radar for these types of matters. This threat has evolved, it's become younger," Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Colvin added that "the problem is getting worse for Australia, not better. The number of individuals that we're concerned about overseas has plateaued a little. Some very good work is being done by our border agencies and our police and security agencies to stop people from leaving for the conflict zones, but there's no doubt that this problem is becoming more acute and more difficult."
The Australian government earlier issued a statement on toughening counter-terrorism laws, which read: "The new laws will, among other things, lower the age at which a control order can be applied from sixteen to fourteen years of age." The new laws will restrict people suspected of involvement in terror activities from leaving the country or certain areas. They will force terror suspects to remain under house arrest or wear a tracking device and restrict the movement of terror suspects as young as 14.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a security summit, which was attended by police and intelligence chiefs, said that the new laws are a direct response to the Sydney shooting on 2 October. Turnbull also urged closer cooperation with Muslim leaders to combat the growing terror threat.
"The shocking murder of Curtis Cheng, a shocking act of terrorism perpetrated by a 15-year-old boy, reminds us yet again that radicalisation, extremism can be seen in the very young. People that we would regard as children. This is a real home grown threat, and it appals all Australians and it appals all Muslim Australians," Turnbull was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.
"The Muslim community are our absolutely necessary partners in this fight against extremism and we need to work very closely with them. The most critically important Australian value in all of this is that of mutual respect," he added.