ASIO investigated more than 40 terrorism-related leads every day last year

Police and rescue vehicles are pictured in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Brighton on June 5, 2017, after a woman was held against her will in an apartment block. Photo: Mal Fairclough/ AFP/ Getty Images.

Australia is at a significant risk of terrorist attack by so-called lone wolves or by small groups, according to the annual report from ASIO, Australia’s domestic intelligence agency.

The national terrorism threat level is currently pegged at PROBABLE.

In its annual report, ASIO says credible intelligence indicates an intention and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia.

Since the national terrorism threat level was raised in September 2014, there have been five terrorist attacks in Australia and 13 disruption operations in response to imminent terrorist attack planning in Australia.

All but one have been linked to or inspired by ISIL or Islamic State.

ASIO’s timeline of terrorist attacks and disruptions in 2017:

Source: ASIO annual report

“Our intelligence discovery and investigative efforts during 2016–17 contributed directly to law enforcement partners disrupting three planned terrorist attacks targeting people in Australia,” ASIO says in its annual report.

“We also identified a range of terrorism-related linkages between Australia and the conflict in Syria and Iraq.”

Over the 12 months, ASIO says it received more than 12,000 lead referrals and resolved or investigated approximately 15,000 leads.

“The volume and tempo of our counter-terrorism investigations remained high, requiring rigorous prioritisation and a focus on the most significant threats,” says ASIO.

“There was a high level of risk in our investigative caseload, which has continued beyond this reporting period.

“In particular, low-capability attacks by lone actors or small groups of like-minded individuals present a significant risk. These attacks can occur with little or no forewarning and we cannot guarantee preparations for such attacks will be detected.”

ASIO says there has been a substantial decline in the number of Australians successfully travelling to join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

“We continue to assess that most Australians with ISIL will remain there, either as a conscious choice or because they are currently unable to safely depart,” ASIO says.

“In the longer term, further ISIL military losses are likely to lead to the death of many of these individuals, although we can expect considerable uncertainty about their circumstances.”

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