Australia issues guide to prevent vehicle attacks in crowded places

A woman resting on one of many concrete blocks that have been placed by the authorities as an extra security measure at Martin Place in Sydney, Australia.
A woman resting on one of many concrete blocks that have been placed by the authorities as an extra security measure at Martin Place in Sydney, Australia.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • Australia has released a strategy to prevent vehicle terror attacks in crowded public places following deadly assaults in Barcelona, Nice and London.

The report - commissioned after 86 people were killed in the Nice truck attack in France last year - gives venue operators a "toolkit" to address terrorism concerns.

"As we have seen from tragic events in Paris, London, Berlin and Barcelona, terrorists continue to target crowded places," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement. "The strategy will assist owners and operators to increase the safety, protection and resilience of crowded places across Australia."

The strategy, released yesterday, offers businesses and local governments a guide to assess how vulnerable their sites are to attacks, including from vehicles, and how to make them safer. Suggested steps include deterrent options like fencing and closed-circuit television cameras, delaying approaches such as by using trees and statues to slow down vehicles, and quick-response staff.

"You can obviously have bollards, you can have seating... you can have works of art, you can have steps, planter boxes," Mr Turnbull told reporters. "At the design stage, it can be done very unobtrusively."

The report conceded that even the best plans might not stop attacks, but said they could reduce the risk of such assaults and their impact. "It is a constant battle for us. It is a tragic reflection of our times that we need to be taking these sorts of measures," Transport Minister Darren Chester told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday.

The attacks in Barcelona and the seaside town of Cambrils in Spain left 14 people dead and hundreds injured. In Barcelona, a van sped down the popular Las Ramblas avenue, which was packed with tourists.

Australia is no stranger to vehicle-style attacks, with six people killed in January after a car mowed down shoppers in the heart of Melbourne. The attack, which was not terror-related, shocked Australians and occurred near Melbourne Park, where top tennis stars were playing in this year's opening Grand Slam.

Canberra has become increasingly worried about home-grown extremism, and officials say they have prevented 13 attacks on home soil in recent years.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Australia issues guide to prevent vehicle attacks in crowded places'. Print Edition | Subscribe