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Australia Terror Risk Is High, Abbott Says
From the Wall Street Journal of Tue, 23 Dec 2014 07:54:15 EST
Photographs of Sydney cafe siege victims Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson are displayed in a floral tribute in Martin Place.
Photographs of Sydney cafe siege victims Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson are displayed in a floral tribute in Martin Place. Reuters

CANBERRA, Australia—Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the threat of terrorist attack in the country was “high” after a recent siege in Sydney, and he warned that intelligence agencies had detected an increased level of militant communication since last week’s hostage crisis in which two people died.

“There has been a heightened level of terrorist chatter in the aftermath of the Martin Place siege,” Mr. Abbott told reporters Tuesday after emerging from a routine meeting with senior national security ministers and police.

Political fallout from the attack continued Tuesday, with the opposition leader in the state of New South Wales, where Sydney is located, resigning over a letter he wrote in 2011 to support gunman Man Haron Monis in a child-access dispute. Iranian immigrant and self-styled sheik Mr. Haron was under court orders for violent behavior at the time.

Buddhist monks pray as the coffin of Sydney siege victim Tori Johnson is placed in a hearse after a funeral service in Sydney.
Buddhist monks pray as the coffin of Sydney siege victim Tori Johnson is placed in a hearse after a funeral service in Sydney. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

As funerals for the two victims of the Dec. 15 siege at the Lindt Chocolate Café took place, Labor opposition leader John Robertson said his position was untenable given the political fallout from the hostage taking a week ago. Mr. Abbott has described the assault as a terrorist attack, although police have been more circumspect, pointing to Mr. Haron’s history of mental instability.

“It has become clear to me that I have lost the support of some of my senior colleagues,” Mr. Roberston told reporters in Sydney. He said the letter had been routine correspondence after contact from Mr. Haron, who died when police stormed the cafe to end the siege, during which he held 17 people hostage for 16 hours.

Mr. Abbott has ordered an investigation into why Mr. Haron was free on bail despite a history of violent behavior and extremist views, and looking at why he was in possession of a weapon despite stringent gun controls. Police have also begun an investigation into the events of the siege, running alongside a routine inquiry by the coroner.

“We do need to be conscious of the fact that the terror threat remains high,” said Mr. Abbott, urging Australians to be vigilant over the country’s summer holiday season. “There are people who would do us harm and who can do us harm.”

Write to Rob Taylor at rob.taylor@wsj.com



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