November 24, 2015 / 4:07 AM / in 2 years

Australia urges more intelligence sharing in Asia to stop Paris-style attack

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday called for greater intelligence sharing in Southeast Asia to stop a Paris-style attack and ordered local law enforcement officials to test their readiness to handle a mass casualty attack.

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to reporters following a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama alongside the APEC summit in Manila, Philippines, November 17, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Citing “increased terrorist threats”, the United States issued a global alert on Monday for Americans planning to travel following deadly militant attacks in France and Mali.

In a national security address to parliament, Turnbull called for greater intelligence sharing with the leaders of Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to which Australians are frequent visitors.

“From an Australian perspective, we see a real risk that terrorist groups in the region might be inspired by attacks such as we have seen in Ankara, Beirut, Bamako and Paris and we are very mindful of the fact that hundreds of thousands of Australians visit Southeast Asia every year,” he said.

Turnbull on Tuesday ordered Australian law enforcement officials to test their readiness for a mass casualty attack in the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks which killed 130 people.

Australia is conducting air strikes against Islamic State as part of a U.S.-led coalition, which has led to threats of retaliatory attacks.

Turnbull reiterated there were no plans to change Australia’s military tactics against Islamic State, despite some politicians calling for troops to be sent to Syria.

He did, however, highlight the need for countering violent extremism online, citing Australian support for a new Malaysian program to counter extremist messaging.

“Just as Australia cannot fight any military conflict against ISIL unilaterally, we cannot counter violent extremism alone, particularly online,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Turnbull also said Attorney General George Brandis would visit Indonesia next month to discuss furthering regional intelligence coordination.

Australia has been on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since last year.

In September, police shot dead a Melbourne teenager after he stabbed two counter-terrorism officers. Last December, two hostages were killed when police stormed a central Sydney cafe to end a 17-hour siege by a lone gunman, who was also killed.

About 120 Australians are believed to be fighting with Islamic State and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria, with several believed by intelligence agencies to hold leadership positions in Islamic State.

Editing by Michael Perry and Richard Pullin

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