French hostage crisis: Australia in solidarity with France, says PM Abbott

A spectator at the Hopman Cup tennis tournament in Perth, Australia, on Jan 9, 2015, holding French flags and a placard saying "Je Suis Charlie". France's Alize Cornet was playing against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska. -- PHOTO: AFP
A spectator at the Hopman Cup tennis tournament in Perth, Australia, on Jan 9, 2015, holding French flags and a placard saying "Je Suis Charlie". France's Alize Cornet was playing against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska. -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia grieves with France over the attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Saturday, adding that he had discussed the evolving international terror threat with President Francois Hollande.

Mr Abbott and Mr Hollande spoke on the telephone on Friday, the prime minister's office said in a statement, saying the French leader had updated him on the situation as it was unfolding and other recent attacks.

"The prime minister stated on behalf of the government and people of Australia how deeply our nation grieves for all the victims of the recent terror attack in Paris," the statement said.

"He praised the leadership of the president at this difficult time. The two leaders discussed the evolving nature of the international terrorist threat and the fact that this is a common problem that our world faces."

The two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack, Said Kouachi and his brother, Cherif, were killed on Friday when police stormed the building where they were holed up - two days after bursting into Charlie Hebdo's offices and killing some of France's best-loved cartoonists.

A third terrorist ally who assaulted a Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris was found dead along with four hostages after a police raid.

In December, Australia's biggest city Sydney was rocked when a lone gunman took customers and staff at a busy cafe hostage. Two hostages and the gunman, self-styled Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis, died in that incident.

Mr Abbott said terrorism was "inspired by an horrific ideology and that it was incumbent on all people, regardless of religion, to speak up for decency and do whatever was needed to combat extremism".

The Australian leader praised the work of the French air force in carrying out air strikes in Iraq to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

Australia is part of a US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against ISIS, which spearheaded an offensive that overrun swathes of Iraq, and has also deployed special forces to assist Iraqi troops.

"Prime Minister Abbott reiterated that Australia stands in solidarity, friendship and sympathy with the government and the people of France at this difficult time," the statement said.

Dozens of Australians are fighting for Islamic militant groups overseas, raising fears that they could return home and carry out attacks.