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Terrorism and how you can help stop it

Posted on 05/06/2017

In the wake of recent tragic events around the world, many people may wonder what role they can play to help keep Australia safe from terrorism.

The nature of terrorism is changing. Even if you think it’s probably nothing, the smallest piece of information can be valuable.

If something doesn’t add up, speak up by calling the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400.

Some things to look out for:

Online activities

Callers now provide information on the use of websites or social media promoting violent extremist ideology, suspicious travel planning, or someone they know who is becoming radicalised towards violent extremism.

Unusual filming or photography of official buildings or other critical infrastructure

Filming and photographing a target is one of the ways terrorists gather information. In 2001, a major terrorist plot in Singapore was averted when the filming of target buildings, including the Australian High Commission, were discovered by authorities.

Suspicious vehicles near significant buildings or in busy public places

Terrorists use vehicles for many different purposes, from surveillance to planting bombs, as in Bali in 2002. Vehicles may be parked for an unusually long time, sometimes in no-parking areas. Explosives can be heavy, so cars and vans may sit abnormally low on their suspension. They may be out of registration, or have false or missing number plates. Overseas, a terrorist attack was foiled after police became suspicious of a car with front and rear number plates that didn’t match.

Suspicious accommodation needs

The way terrorists use, rent and buy accommodation is often suspicious. In the UK, a rented garage was turned into a bomb factory. A member of the public reported strange comings and goings of men wearing gloves, which led to the arrest of terrorists who had already attacked Heathrow Airport three times.

Unusual purchases of large quantities of fertiliser, chemicals or explosives

Fertiliser is a widely available product that has been used in many terrorist bombs. In 1995 a bomb in Oklahoma City killed 168 people. One of the people involved was arrested following the discovery of a receipt for nearly a tonne of fertiliser that was used to make the bomb.

A lifestyle that doesn’t add up

While planning an attack, terrorists may lead lives that appear unusual or suspicious. Before the 11 September 2001 attacks, terrorists in the US undertook flight training but weren’t interested in learning how to take off or land. The leader of that group also paid cash for many large purchases such as the flight training, accommodation, vehicles and air tickets.

False or multiple identities

Terrorists frequently use stolen or fake documents, including passports and driver’s licences. They can also have several identities and may give conflicting details to those they come into contact with. Overseas, alert bank employees noticed a series of unusual transactions and identified an account that had been opened in a false name. They reported it to authorities, who uncovered links to a terrorist group.

Unattended bags

If you see an unattended package or bag in a public place, with no apparent reason for it being there, here’s what to do:

  1. ask if anyone owns it
  2. if no one does, don’t touch it
  3. alert others to keep away.

If you have any information about terrorism then call the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400, and if you have any information about criminals and criminal activity then call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


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