SYDNEY, Australia: For the first time in eight years, Australia lowered its terrorism threat level from “probable” to “possible,” due to a reduced risk of attacks from extremists.
The country’s terrorist threat level was raised in 2014, as many Australians were believed to be fighting overseas with Islamist militant groups, along with the risks posed by those Australians who had been radicalized in Iraq or Syria.
However, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) said the factors justifying the heightened threat levels no longer existed or were greatly reduced.
Mike Burgess, ASIO director-general of security, told reporters, “While Australia remains a potential terrorist target, there are fewer extremists to conduct an attack onshore.”
However, the change did not mean all terror threats had been extinguished, he added, stressing, “It remains plausible that someone will die at the hands of a terrorist in Australia within the next 12 months, although, of course, we will work around the clock to prevent that.”
Resuming a controversial program criticized by the Liberal-National opposition, last month, the country’s Labor government repatriated four Australian women and their 13 children from a Syrian refugee camp.
The offshore networks, capabilities and allure of radical Islamic groups have been degraded, with their support in Australia fading, though it has not yet disappeared, Burgess added.
“While ASIO considered all these factors when deciding to lower the terrorism threat level, I can almost guarantee it will need to go up again at some point in the future,” he added.