The Islamic State (IS) group remains resilient and will be desperate to prove itself, an international counter-terrorism conference in Melbourne has heard.
The warning comes from terrorism experts who believe the extremist threat has not diminished despite IS being banished from Iraq.
The issue has been at the forefront of the International Counter Terrorism Forum in Melbourne, attended by police and intelligence agencies from around the world.
Professor Greg Barton from Deakin University, an expert in global Islamic politics, said for many countries small-scale attacks are most concerning.
“All around the world, the biggest threat, the hardest thing to deal with are small groups — one or two or three people — acting without any top-down direction,” Professor Barton said.
“Counter-terrorism forces are now very good at disrupting large-scale ambitious plots, but things such as the Manchester bombing or the attacks on London Bridge, those sort of attacks are very hard to predict and very hard to stop once they start.”
Australia has not been immune either, with five different so-called ‘lone wolf’ terror attacks on Australian soil occurring since late 2014.
As part of a $10 million security boost, the Victorian Government will be installing loudspeakers at 95 key sites across central Melbourne.
“This is really about having an additional capacity in emergency situations for Victoria Police to issue emergency alerts,” the Police Minister Lisa Neville said.
“Whether it’s through SMS, through social media, and adding the speakers as an additional sense of security and source of information for the community.”
Australia vulnerable with ‘soft targets’
Victoria Police assistant commissioner Ross Guenther said the fall of IS in Iraq does not mean it is time to celebrate just yet.
“It’d be nice if we could actually do that, but what we do know is the caliphate may be as a physical structure lessened or extinguished,” Mr Guenther said.
“But that doesn’t mean the ideology or the threat of that has gone away.”
The counter-terrorism conference, whose attendees include the UK Metropolitan Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, will run over three days.
But in the meantime, Professor Barton believes a public address system like in Melbourne is an important step.
“That suggests that there’s a recognition that we may not be able to cut off every attempt at attack before it commences,” he said.
“The experience overseas suggests Australia hasn’t seen the worst of it yet. We have vulnerable soft targets — public places that we can’t completely make secure.
“But once [an attack] does commence, informing the public and helping them find safety and helping police coordinate their response can go a long way to reducing the impact of an attempted attack.”