The recent attack in Australia, in which a 15-year-old gunman from Sydney shot dead a civilian police employee, has been labeled as an ‘act of terrorism,’ by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Finance worker Curtis Cheng was shot at close range by an Iranian-born teenager of Iraqi-Kurdish background. The perpetrator’s name has not been released by police authorities.
Chung had been working for the police department for 17 years. He was fatally shot from the back and was most likely unaware of the peril surrounding him.
Some eyewitnesses claimed to have heard the perpetrator shout religiously motivated slogans moments prior to the attack. However, such reports remain inconclusive at the current time. Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione stated:
“We are a long way from establishing a full picture of this man. His exact motivation still remains a mystery to us.”
However, Scipione also added that based on current evidence, the perpetrator could have been politically motivated to carry out what is now labeled as a terrorist attack.
“If it’s politically motivated violence, then under our definition, it is deemed necessarily an act of terrorism,” he said.
Scipione refused to release further comments to the press on why police assume the perpetrator’s motivations were of political nature. Investigators have said that they are unaware if the teenager was radicalized by any group and they assume he most likely acted alone.
This tragedy raises even more fears in the country about the existence of sleeper cells collaborating with international extremist groups. No strong evidence has been provided so far on the matter, although many fear Australia’s foreign policy abroad, in particular the country’s involvement with the anti-ISIS coalition, could result in terror attacks inland as previous threats have indicated.
Prime Minister Turnbull has warned that more young people are being radicalized in the country by extremist group and their sympathizers. In September 2014, an 18-year-old was shot dead by police after stabbing two counterterrorism officers in Melbourne. And in April this year, authorities claimed to have intercepted an ISIS plot to target police officers on Veterans’ Day. Several radicalized teens have been arrested ever since.
In December 2014, a lone gunman took hostage ten customers and eight employees at a Lindt chocolate café in Sydney. After a 16-hour standoff, the gunman was killed by police and the remaining hostages were freed – two others were killed. It was reported that the perpetrators had asked for an ISIS flag, although later reports concluded that his case was somewhat peculiar, involving both radicalization, as well as mental illness.
After so many incidents, the country remains in a state of turmoil and a general feeling of anxiety and insecurity settles in. However, the Australian government maintains its firm commitment to combat terrorism both at home and abroad.
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