Australia

Calls for new counter-terror squad, Dutton 'open to suggestions' after Bourke Street attack

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Days after a deadly attack in Melbourne's Bourke Street, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says he is open to all suggestions on dealing with terrorism.

Australia should establish a British-style rapid response anti-terror unit with powers to track people on terrorist watch lists to prevent more extremist attacks, a counter-terrorism expert claims following Melbourne's Bourke Street stabbing.

Dr Allan Orr, who is writing a book about Sydney's Lindt Cafe siege, said such a specialist police taskforce would be armed with high powered weapons and have access to helicopters.

"In the UK these frontline officers don't deal with anything else but counter-terrorism, so they've got their playbook down to response times of two minutes," he told Fairfax Media on Monday.

Shire Ali was known to federal police and had his passport cancelled in 2015.
Shire Ali was known to federal police and had his passport cancelled in 2015.
Supplied

The Islamic community is being called on to help Australian authorities prevent further terrorist attacks after Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, who was known to intelligence agencies, crashed a car full of gas cylinders in Melbourne's Bourke Street on Friday before fatally stabbing prominent Italian restaurateur Sisto Malaspina and injuring two others.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said police and other government agencies could not stop spontaneous acts of terror without tip-off or alerts from the public.

On Monday, he said he was open to anything that would help improve the way Australia dealt with terrorism.

Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton speaks with the media following the incident.
Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton speaks with the media following the incident.
AAP

"I'd be keen to have a look at anything, and we will continue to refresh the way we do things," Mr Dutton told the Seven Network.

Shire Ali was known to federal police and had his passport cancelled in 2015 amid fears the Somali-born man planned to travel to Syria to fight with Islamic State.

"It is important for us to get as much information from the imams, from spouses, family members, community members, council workers, people that might be interacting with those that might have changed their behaviours, that they think have been radicalised," Mr Dutton said.

Mr Dutton says the government's community engagement programs have provided critical intelligence that has helped stop other attacks, but that there were still gaps in information.

The alleged attacker's burnt out vehicle on Bourke Street in Melbourne.
The alleged attacker's burnt out vehicle on Bourke Street in Melbourne.
AAP

Hundreds of individuals are under the watchful eyes of authorities and talks on how to improve monitoring in the wake of last week's attack are underway, he added.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Islamic leaders to call out extremism in their communities.

His remarks were labelled divisive by Muslim leaders who say their communities aren't to blame for the actions of one individual.

"It is extremely disappointing in such difficult times and during a national tragedy, when all Australians of all faiths and backgrounds should be called upon to unite and stand together against any form of extremism and violence, to see our nation's leader politicising this incident and using it for political gain," the Australian National Imams Council said in a statement on Sunday.

Shire Ali was shot in the chest by a police officer and later died in hospital.

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