Australian security agency reports significant increase of right-wing extremists

CANBERRA, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Australia's national security agency has reported a significant increase in the number of right-wing extremists it has under surveillance.

Heather Cook, the deputy director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), told parliament's joint intelligence and security committee on Tuesday that far-right extremism now accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the agency's caseload compared to 10 to 15 percent in 2016.

She revealed that the agency was looking "very closely" at listing right-wing extremist groups as terrorist organizations for the first time in Australia, which would give authorities greater powers to monitor them.

Cook told the committee that the coronavirus pandemic has fuelled far-right extremism, with some organizations employing tactics used by Islamic State (IS) to recruit members online during the lockdown.

"Some of the circumstances of COVID have contributed to an increase in radicalization in particular because of the amount of time that individuals are spending in isolation or working from home or not in school," she said.

"I think it's not dissimilar to the way Islamic State used its propaganda and its ability to manipulate social media to recruit the young and the vulnerable. I think we are seeing a similar phenomenon being used by some in that extreme right-wing milieu to good effect."

Kristina Keneally, Labor's Home Affairs spokesperson, earlier in September called for the government to list right-wing extremists as terrorists after Australian man Brenton Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without parole in New Zealand over the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings.

"Some experts suggest that, in our increasingly networked world, any practical distinction between domestic and international terrorism has almost gone completely," she said




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