Wednesday 16 Oct 2019 | 08:39 | SYDNEY
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The Wiranto attack and the ISIS impact

The stabbing attack last Thursday by an ISIS supporter on Wiranto, Indonesia’s top security minister, was a shock for several reasons. Attacks on senior officials in Indonesia are very rare, though terrorist attacks on police are common. Protection proved to be disturbingly lax – the stabber got

The women of ISIS and the fog of law

The difficulties of establishing a coherent policy towards women and children detained as members of the Islamic State or their dependents presents a longstanding challenge. One key question from an Australian point of view is whether all the women involved were still Australian citizens. News

Book review: Common enemies

Book review: Common enemies: crime, policy and politics in Australia–Indonesia relations, by Michael McKenzie (Oxford University Press, 2018) Next month marks the 17th anniversary of the Bali Bombing, which on 12 October 2002 claimed the lives of 202 people and injured 209 others. The attack

The curious case of Hamza bin Laden’s death

This week at least two US officials have anonymously confirmed to US news outlets that Hamza bin Laden, the son of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was killed in a targeted operation. It is clear that counterterrorism and intelligence officials from around the world have been tracking him for

The changing face of violent extremism

The Easter bombings in Sri Lanka killed 258 people, including two Australians among 46 foreign nationals, and injured 500 more. Its perpetrators according to Sri Lankan State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene were “well-educated and come from the middle or upper-middle class”, and were “

‪ISIS: women’s work?

Should domestic labour be valued the same as work outside the home? What is the contribution of a stay at home wife and mother? How can we evaluate emotional labour when it often goes unseen? No, these are not topic questions during a “Lean In” circle. These are questions that many courts are

The relativity of the death penalty

Opposition to the death penalty has a long and quite public history in Australia. Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan of the so-called “Bali Nine” drug smugglers received support from artists, singers, actors, media personalities and sports stars, while a crowd of about a thousand people

Caliph emerges without his caliphate

This week, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted man, appeared in a 20-minute video released by al Furqan Media, the official media outlet for ISIS. This is only the second time he has been shown on video as he has stayed assiduously out of the public eye since he was selected as the ISIS

Sri Lanka attacks: Still many puzzles to solve

It is very early in the aftermath of the Sri Lanka terrorist attacks and like all such attacks, more information will emerge in the coming days and weeks.  But a few early observations: 1. This was a well planned and coordinated attack: seven suicide bombers attacking six targets on the west

ISIS: the generational problem

The fate of perhaps as many as 70 children born to Australian mothers and caught up in the Iraq-Syria conflict has been the focus of Australian media attention. There are calls for them to be repatriated on the grounds that they should not be tarred with the same brush as their parents. An episode

The cost of terror: two tales of country life

One country town, two people. One of them a hero who added to the legacy of the uncomplicated stoicism and selflessness that Australians popularly associate with “the bush”, and the other someone who betrayed it. Last week two people from the small Riverland town of Loxton in South Australia (

The case to prosecute “jihadi brides” at home

A woman believed to be Melbourne-born Zehra Duman has recently resurfaced among the thousands of women and children at al Hawl refugee camp fleeing the last vestiges of the so-called ISIS caliphate. At just 19 years old, Duman left Australia to join the Islamic State. She married fellow

Christchurch enters a nightmare peculiar to our times

“The nihilist … acts out the violence that so many others perpetrate verbally and virtually on the web: he is, in that sense, the avenging angel of post-truth and the rant made flesh.”- The Revolt of the Public The cold-blooded murder of 50 persons while at prayer at mosque in

Five questions about the Christchurch attack

The terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch by an Australian white supremacist accused of killing 50 people as they gathered for prayer has rightfully horrified people the world over. While police and security agencies grapple with how the attack came to pass without their

Behind every mujahid there is a mujahidi

The tendency to downplay the agency of female ISIS members was explored last week by my colleague Lydia Khalil (Repatriating female foreign fighters: political not personal). In media interviews, detained women or their families often make self-serving claims to have been brainwashed or

Don’t “crush” Abu Sayyaf perpetrators, debrief them

The horrific bombing of the cathedral in Jolo last Sunday underscores the need for the Philippines government to understand more about the operations of pro-ISIS groups in Mindanao. The best way to get that information is to find, arrest, and debrief the perpetrators of violent extremist crimes.

Disruptors disrupted: Australia’s new encryption law

Last week the Australian government successfully passed contentious national security legislation granting security and law enforcement agencies greater access to the encrypted messages of suspected criminals. The Telecommunications and Other Legislation (Assistance and Access) Bill is part of a

Bourke Street: debating terrorism

The violence in Melbourne’s Bourke Street last Friday is still being investigated as a terrorist incident and, as with all terrorist incidents, the media and public are rightly eager for information. While the authorities have been as open as they can be, this early in the process there

Xinjiang: outrage is not a policy

If the outrage about China’s forced re-education camps serves to do anything, it will be to again demonstrate that we have very short memories. Worse than being simply misguided, our outrage risks being ineffective.In Myanmar, despite all the warning signs which myself and many colleagues

Managing the release of convicted terrorists

It has been nearly two decades since the Council of Australian Governments agreed to a national framework to combat terrorism. Now, in the long shadow of the September 11 attacks, some of Australia’s convicted terrorists are nearing the completion of their custodial sentences. From 2019 onwards,

Surabaya and the ISIS family

Indonesia has again exploded in a paroxysm of terrorist violence, but with a new twist: family suicide bombers. This may be the first time in the world that parents took their children on a family outing to blow themselves up. The three families included the six killed in the bombings of

Indonesia: countering a message of hate

After the Bali bombings of 2002, security forces within the Government of Indonesia, like their Western counterparts, worked towards incorporating “ideological” or “soft” approaches into counterterrorism portfolios. This approach later became commonly known as Countering Violent

Sifting evil intent from charities doing good

The nexus between charitable aid and terrorism is a delicate and often difficult subject to discuss, let alone research. Some troubling relationships do exist, but the number of charities involved is small relative to the vast number of organisations doing good work. Although the sums

The resurgence of Al-Qaeda

Nearly seven years after the killing of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda is numerically larger and present in more countries than at any other time in its history. Indeed, the movement now boasts of some 40,000 men under arms, with approximately 10,000–20,000 fighters in Syria; 7000–9000 in

Countering youth radicalisation in Indonesia

A group of ten Muslim students gathered in the shady courtyard of central Jakarta’s Roman Catholic Cathedral are reluctant to pass through its neo-Gothic doorways. Some argue that entering the cathedral would contravene their devotion to Islam and equate to an abandonment of faith.

Marawi battle has implications for Australians

Recent terrorism-related developments in the Philippines could lead to an increased security threat to Australians in parts of Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. Earlier this year, ISIS had portrayed the Philippines as something of a success story to distract from its reverses

Islamic State is changing the face of terrorism

If thwarted terrorist plots are anything to go by, then Australia surely does live up to its reputation as the lucky country. In the past month there were two narrowly missed major attacks that were part of the same conspiracy against Australian aviation. The latest plot was the thirteenth

Some lessons from the foiled Sydney terror plot

We don’t yet know all the details, but from what we do know there are both disturbing and perplexing elements to the Islamic State-supported terrorist plot to blow up an airliner departing from Sydney. Here are some early thoughts on the issues that should engage our minds as a result of the

Islamist terrorism: The true measure of the threat

How seriously should we take the threat of terrorism? It is nigh on impossible to gain consensus on this issue. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has declared Islamist terrorism a real threat to the nation-state system, while former US President Barack Obama said it wasn’t an existential threat and

Egypt’s Copts: Caught between the Egyptian State and IS

What should have been a joyous Easter week has turned to tragedy in Egypt. Two suicide bombings targeting St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria (where the Coptic pope was praying just minutes before) and St George’s church in Tanta killed 44 people and injured hundreds during Palm Sunday services.

London attack: Tragic and widely predicted

Yesterday’s tragic attack in London was both predictable and widely predicted. Since August 2014, the UK terror threat level has been 'severe', meaning that an attack is highly likely. The UK Government had repeatedly and very publicly warned of the likelihood of a terror attack, while

Living with terror in Lahore

It's been some time since I lived on Mall Road near Lahore's busy Mayo Hospital which treats most emergency cases but ambulance sirens still wake me at night, a feature now sometimes of nightmares where I see again the dead bodies and terror victims I have reported on through the years. On 15

Taking the terror out of terrorism (part 3)

This is the third post of a three-part series. For part one, click here, and for part two, click here. The relationship between terrorism and the media is long and well-established. To achieve their core aim of provoking irrational fear in large groups of people, terrorists have relied on the

Taking the terror out of terrorism (part 2)

This is the second post of a three-part series. For part one, click here. An individual is entirely reliant on the actions of others (government agencies) to keep them safe from the threat of terrorism. In this context, basing a communications strategy around government prevention efforts

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