Australia police in extremist 'shoot on sight' training

Police block off a street ahead of the arrival of demonstrators demanding the closure of the Parramatta Mosque in western Sydney, Australia.
Police block off a street ahead of the arrival of demonstrators demanding the closure of the Parramatta Mosque in western Sydney, Australia. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian police are being trained to shoot armed extremists on sight it was revealed on Tuesday (Nov 17), in a change of tactics from "contain and negotiate" amid fears of further terrorist attacks.

Canberra has become increasingly concerned about the prospect of lone-wolf attacks by individuals inspired by groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and a tightening of counter-terrorism laws is underway.

Six attacks in Australia have been foiled over the past 12 months, according to the government, but several have not, including a police employee being shot in the back of the head in Sydney last month by a teenager reportedly shouting religious slogans.

In response the country's most populous state, New South Wales, has begun training police to shoot armed attackers immediately, rather than the "contain and negotiate" protocol that has been in place for decades.

"We're at a point now where the ground has shifted, things have changed and starting with Mumbai onwards there's been any number of attacks where you have a mobile enemy force, which moves through places and kills people," Deputy NSW Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas told 2UE radio. "We would be mad to continue to say we will do nothing but contain and negotiate."

In Nov 2008, 166 people were killed in Mumbai when Islamist gunmen stormed luxury hotels, the main railway station, a Jewish centre and other sites in the booming Indian metropolis.

Since then, radical Islamist groups or individuals have carried out a number of attacks, culminating in the atrocities in Paris on Friday that left 129 dead.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said police forces needed all the resources and powers they could get to ensure the community was safe.

"These brutal terrorists do not negotiate," she said.

"I believe that Australian law enforcement authorities need all of the powers that they can to ensure that Australians can be kept safe." Kaldas stressed the "shoot on sight" order would not be appropriate in all circumstances.

Authorities raised Australia's terror threat alert to high just over 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 2014, 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.