Tony Abbott raises terror threat to 'high'

THE terror threat in Australia has risen to high but Prime Minister Tony Abbott says that does not mean a terror attack is imminent.

Mr Abbott said there was no specific intelligence about a particular plot but rather there was intelligence about people with intent who were capable of mounting attacks.

He said "there are people who wish to do us harm and are preparing to do us harm" but he believed security and police were smarter than them and one step ahead.

Mr Abbott said security agencies had raised the threat level based on an accumulation of indicators such as the number Australians fighting in the Middle East.

"We are targets," he said.

There are now 10,000 foreign fighters in the Middle Eastern conflict and about 60 or 70 are Australian.

Mr Abbott said the threat also came from people returning from the Middle East who had been militarised and brutilised to kill.

"There are people who would do us harm and regrettably some of them are Australian citizens, Australian residents," he said.

"We know from previous experience people, who have been enculturated to terrorism abroad, back here at home will retain the inclinations to engage in terrorist activities.

"Some 30 Australians we know went to Afghanistan and Pakistan a decade or so ago to work with the Taliban.

"Twenty-five returned, two thirds of them were subsequently involved in terror activities in Australia. Nine were convicted.

Mr Abbott said the decision to raise the threat level was not about religion but rather about "crime, potential crime and combat crime".

He said people would notice more security at airports, at government buildings and at public events but they should have "complete confidence" in authorities.

"I want to stress that for the vast majority of Australians … it will not make any difference to daily life," he said..

ASIO chief David Irvine said a terror attack was "much more likely" and there had been an accumulation of indicators that give authorities cause for concern.

He said a number of factors had increased the possibility of attacks here.

"Here in Australia, a number of plots have been thwarted," he said.

"The threat therefore has always been with us.

"What has happened in recent months is that events in the Middle East have increased the level of activity among people who support from pretty distorted views, extremist violent views."

Mr Irvine said the threat had been building over the past six to 12 months.

He said they had been dealing with it through a number of ways such as removing passports.

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