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DFAT’s worldwide terror travel advisory pulls no punches

May 1, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

As part of its mission to encourage travel “which is both safe and responsible” the Smart Traveller section of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has just issued sweeping advice that many in the industry might regard as very broad and rather chilling.

Instead of its usual specific, country-by-country advisories, DFAT’s latest update is headed simply: “Terrorist Threat Worldwide”.

DFAT warns that international terrorism remains a threat to Australians living and travelling overseas and it warns that Australians may be specifically targeted.

Its bulletin continues:

Numerous terrorist groups have demonstrated the intent and capability to undertake attacks, including against Australian interests. On 21 April 2019, a number of bombings targeted prominent hotels and churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. These attacks have resulted in over 250 deaths and over 450 injured.

In March 2019, two consecutive terrorist attacks at Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand resulted in 50 deaths and many more injured. Exacerbating the threat is the growing phenomenon of terrorist attacks perpetrated by lone actors, regardless of their ideology with little or no forewarning. Terrorists continue to adapt their methods of attacks – with attacks targeting locations where attacks may not have been anticipated.

Terrorist attacks are motivated by extremist ideology, including from religious, right wing, left wing, separatist or nationalist individual or groups.

Australia and Australians are viewed by some terrorist groups, including the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qa’ida as a target for attacks. This threat extends worldwide. Even in cases where attacks may not specifically target Australian interests, Australians can, and have been, harmed in indiscriminate attacks or attacks aimed at others.

Crowded places remain an attractive terrorist target and do not require advanced capability to attack. Terrorist attacks against crowded places have previously occurred in several cities globally.

Attacks harming Australians

Since 2001, more than 100 Australians have been killed in terrorist attacks in public places.  Recent attacks where Australians have been killed include:

  • the attacks in Sri Lanka in April 2019
  • the attack in Barcelona in August 2017
  • the attacks on London Bridge and the Borough Market in June 2017
  • the attack on the Karrada Peninsula in Baghdad in May 2017

Australians have also been kidnapped and held hostage by terrorists. The Australian Government does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers.

St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, a target of the Easter Day terrorist bombings

Common targets for terrorist attacks

Terrorist groups and their sympathisers are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack (including vehicles and edged weapons) and targeting relatively unprotected places. However, complex and large-scale attacks continue to occur and terrorists continue to plan this type of attack.

Terrorists may target:

  • local government interests: including symbols, offices and infrastructure associated with national or local governments, public transport, military and security forces bases;
  • identifiably Western interests: including embassies, consulates, airlines, foreign oil and gas infrastructure, premises of multinational companies (including employee residential compounds) and international schools;
  • places of mass gathering: including public buildings and infrastructure such as shopping malls, hotels, markets, public transport terminals, airports, tourist sites and public areas;
  • places where Westerners gather: including at hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and other entertainment infrastructure catering to foreign clientele;
  • places of worship: including mosques, churches, temples and synagogues, as well as religious ceremonies and processions of all faiths.

Take particular care at holiday or religious festivals or observances on significant dates and anniversaries, and during political events (such as elections). These may be considered symbolic by terrorists and have been used in the past to mount attacks. Dates of significance include New Years Eve, Easter, Ramadan, Christmas and national days (eg. Bastille Day).

Terrorists have also conducted attacks in response to broader international political or social developments, such as the release of films and cartoons considered to be offensive.

Those wishing to learn more can do so on the DFAT site here.

Edited by Peter Needham

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