The head of Australia's intelligence agency has warned that more younger people are getting radicalised by Islamist extremists and that the trend could be dangerous for the country's security scenario.
Duncan Lewis, director-general of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio), told a Senate estimates committee on Tuesday (28 February) that the age-group of radicalised youth being investigated by their agency "dropped by a decade in the space of a couple of years".
He explained that in 2013, 45% of Sunni extremists who were investigated by Asio were between 25 and 34 years of age, while 40% of those under investigation in 2015 were between 15 and 24.
"We are still looking at a very young cohort that are impacted and influenced by this ISIL extremist, violent message," Lewis reportedly told the committee, referring to the jihadist group as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. He pointed out that there was a vast difference in tackling radicalised people belonging to the different age-groups and that "a very young cohort" posed a real challenge for them.
The security chief also said that the hundreds of Australians who are being influenced by Islamic extremism and violence accounted for less than 0.1% of the roughly half-a-million Australian Muslims. "The other 99.9% of Australian Muslims are not involved in activities of security concern in any way and are of no interest to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation," he was quoted by the Australian Associated Press as saying.
Lewis also suggested that the biggest terrorism threat to Australia comes from those who adopt "a violent extremist interpretation of Sunni Islam" and these were the people who carried out attacks in the country in the recent past. The agency chief pointed out threats from another section of people who combined extreme right-wing anti-Islam ideology with a willingness to use violence and warned against the threats of cyberterrorism and espionage.