Australia appoints 2 new counterterrorism coordinators

AP News
Posted: May 25, 2015 1:35 AM

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia on Monday moved to increase cooperation between its security agencies against the threat of Islamic State group militants by appointing two new counterterrorism coordinators.

Greg Moriarty, a former ambassador to Indonesia and Iran, was named commonwealth counterterrorism coordinator, heading an office within Prime Minister Tony Abbott's department.

Moriarty will be responsible for coordinating security agencies within the Attorney-General's, Defense and Foreign departments.

"He will not be directing the operations ... of any particular agency, but he will have authority across agencies to ensure that all of the agencies are pulling together when it comes to this vital national security challenge," Abbott told reporters.

Justice Minister Keenan has taken on the new portfolio of minister assisting the prime minister on counterterrorism, focusing on coordinating efforts against home-grown terrorism.

The government will this week detail plans to change citizenship laws to allow terrorists to be stripped of their Australian citizenship if to do so would not leave them stateless.

Since Australia's terrorist threat level was elevated to its second-highest level on a four-tier scale in September, two attacks have occurred and another six were disrupted by police, Abbott said.

An 18-year-old man was shot dead by police after stabbing two counterterrorism police officers in September in Melbourne. In Sydney in December, a 50-year-old Iranian-born gunman was shot dead by police after he took 18 people hostage in a cafe. Two hostages also died in the siege.

Last month, five Australian teenagers were arrested on suspicion of plotting an Islamic State group-inspired terrorist attack at a Veterans' Day ceremony in Melbourne that included targeting police officers.

Two weeks ago, police arrested a 17-year-old in Melbourne and charged him with plotting to detonate three homemade pipe bombs.

"Terrorist attack planning is becoming more frequent, warning times are reducing and the perpetrators are becoming younger," Abbott said.