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Australia raises terror threat level from 'medium' to 'high'

Australia has raised its terror threat level from "medium" to "high," Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Australian Security Intelligence Organization Director-General David Irvine announced Friday at a joint press conference.

By JC Finley
Australia raises terror threat level from 'medium' to 'high'
Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia, pictured in June, has raised the terror alert level from "medium" to "high." (UPI/Ron Sachs/Pool) | License Photo

MELBOURNE, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Australia raised its terror threat level from "medium" to "high" late Thursday, suggesting a terrorism attack is likely.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott emphasized Friday at a press conference that "this does not mean that a terror attack is imminent."

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While he reiterated there was "no specific intelligence of particular plots," Abbot explained the threat of an attack was heightened because "There are people with the intent and the capability to mount attacks here in Australia."

The decision to increase the threat level was made by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization based on several indicators, Abbot noted.

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"... the numbers of Australians in the Middle East fighting with and supporting terrorist groups; the numbers who have returned from the Middle East having fought with terrorist groups; the numbers here in Australia who are known to be supporting these terrorist groups; and the exhortations that are coming from the Middle East to the supporters of these terrorist groups here in Australia to prepare to launch attacks here in Australia."

ASIO Director-General David Irvine noted the government had been weighing whether to increase the threat level for the past few months. The decision was ultimately made, he said, because of an "accumulation of factors, the long history of al-Qa'ida-types targeting Australia, the rhetoric that is now coming out of the Middle East which is encouraging Australians to take violent action and therefore increases the possibility of attacks here."

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Australia's intelligence agency estimates among the 10,000 foreign fighters in the Middle East, 60 or 70 are Australian.

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Although the threat level has been increased, the prime minister assured the public that it "will not make any difference to daily life" while also asking for vigilance. "I would urge people who do notice things that are out of the ordinary to ring [the national security hotline]: 1800-123-400."

The government is increasing security at airports, ports, military bases, government buildings and at large public events.

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