Australian police investigate 12-year-old terror suspect
CANBERRA, Australia — Authorities have warned that suspected terrorists in Australia are becoming younger, with a 12-year-old boy now under investigation by security agencies.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television late Wednesday over the last 12 months the terrorist threat has evolved and become younger.
“We’re shocked that a 12-year-old is on police radar for these types of matters,” he said.
Colvin was commenting ahead of an urgent national summit of federal and state law enforcement officials convened by Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull in the national capital Canberra on Thursday to counter violent extremism.
It follows the shooting death outside a Sydney police building on Oct. 2 of police accountant Curtis Cheng by 15-year-old Farhad Jabar. Iranian-born Jabar was later shot dead by police.
“The shocking murder of Curtis Cheng, a shocking act of terrorism perpetrated by a 15-year-old boy, reminds us yet again that radicalization, extremism can be seen in the very young: People that we would regard as children,” Turnbull said at the start of the summit.
ABC reported on Wednesday that the 12-year-old boy was the youngest of 18 suspected extremists named in a court document in March. The boy’s name has not been published.
Terror suspect Ahmad Naizmand, 20, was barred from contacting the 18 — including five children — under the terms of a control order issued by a Sydney court in March. A control order is a counterterrorism measure that restricts the activities of suspects even if they have not been charged.
The government announced this week that it will legislate to reduce the age of suspects that can be subjected to such control orders from 16 to 14 years.
Colvin declined to comment on the ABC’s allegation that the group had been attempting to source a gun as early as March. He also declined to say where Jabar got the revolver he had used.
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counterterrorism Michael Keenan told ABC on Thursday that the young age of the 12-year-old suspect was “terrible and … shocking.”
“Unfortunately it is symptomatic of the challenge that we are facing,” Keenan said.
“We know that ISIL has been grooming young Australians. Initially, they started with people in their 20s, they then moved on to … people in their late teens, and now we’re seeing them move on to people in their early teens,” he added, referring to the Islamic State movement.
Keenan declined to say how many children in Australia under the age of 14 were on terrorism watch lists.
“We don’t know where the bottom is going to be, but obviously we’re very concerned about it,” he said.
Australia has been struggling to cope with a string of homegrown terrorism crimes involving teenagers. In September 2014, an 18-year-old was shot dead by police after stabbing two counterterrorism police officers in Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city.
In April, several teens were arrested on suspicion of plotting an Islamic State group-inspired attack at a Veterans’ Day ceremony in Melbourne. And in May, police arrested a 17-year-old in Melbourne and accused him of plotting to detonate three homemade pipe bombs.
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