SYDNEY • Australian police have revealed that a 12-year-old is on the radar of counter-terrorism authorities, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged closer cooperation with Muslim leaders at national security talks to tackle the growing extremist threat.
The boy was listed on a federal court order among a group of males linked to Farhad Jabar, 15, who shot a police employee in the back of the head in Sydney this month while reportedly shouting religious slogans.
"We're shocked that a 12-year-old is on police radar for these types of matters," Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday. "This threat has evolved. It's become younger." He added that "the problem is getting worse for Australia, not better".
Earlier this week, Canberra outlined plans to tighten counter-terrorism laws further, including restricting the movements of suspects as young as 14 in the wake of the deadly attack on police employee Curtis Cheng. Jabar was killed by police fire soon after.
Yesterday, an 18-year-old man was arrested on terrorism-related charges linked to the shooting while a 22-year-old will be charged with supplying the gun, police said.
This threat has evolved. It's become younger. The problem is getting worse for Australia, not better.
AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE COMMISSIONER ANDREW COLVIN
Justice Minister Michael Keenan also expressed alarm at the age of children being targeted for radicalisation but declined to say how many young teens were on watchlists. "I do not think it is appropriate for me to go into that," he said.
Canberra has become increasingly concerned about the prospect of lone-wolf attacks by individuals inspired by groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and has already cracked down on Australians attempting to travel to conflict zones.
The authorities lifted Australia's terror threat alert to high a year ago, introduced new national security laws and have since conducted several counter-terrorism raids.
The moves followed Melbourne police shooting dead a "known terror suspect" who stabbed two officers in September last year, just one day after ISIS militants called for Muslims to indiscriminately kill Australians.
And in December, Iranian-born self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis and two hostages were killed following a 17-hour siege at a central Sydney cafe.
Mr Turnbull opened yesterday's meeting in Canberra of police, security and intelligence chiefs from around the country, urging closer cooperation with Muslim leaders and greater mutual respect across the country. "The Muslim community are our absolutely necessary partners in this fight against extremism and we need to work very closely with them," he said.