CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s right-wing terrorism threat has continued to rise with almost half of domestic spy counter-terrorism investigations now dedicated to ideological extremists.

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general Mike Burgess told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Tuesday terror threats were complex and challenging.

“Our investigations in ideologically motivated violent extremism, such as racists and nationalists, are approaching 50 percent of our counter-terrorism onshore caseload,” he said.

“This reflects a growing international trend as well as the organization’s decision to allocate more resources to the threat.”

He said the increase was concerning and challenging but needed to be viewed in context.

An Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer holds a Mk18 Short-Barrel Rifle during an announcement by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to increase counter-terrorism measures at Canberra Airport in Canberra. (Lukas Coch/AAP Image)

“Religiously motivated violent extremism remains, in the short term, our most serious terrorist threat.”

Burgess said battle-hardened foreign fighters could return to the country, while 14 Australians convicted of terrorism offenses were due to end prison terms over the next five years.

“Right now our organization is aware of multiple religiously motivated violent extremists who want to kill Australians. Groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant continue to urge attacks,” he said.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, officially known as the Islamic State and also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, is a militant group and formerly unrecognized proto-state that follows a Salafi jihadist doctrine.

The threat of a terrorist attack remains probable, with Burgess telling a hearing last month an incident was likely within the next year.

Burgess also warned foreign spies and extremists were using encrypted messages along with other technology to evade authorities.

Security Intelligence Organisation director-general Mike Burgess also warned foreign spies and extremists were using encrypted messages along with other technology to evade authorities. (Philipp Katzenberger/Unsplash)

He said increased investment in the agency would allow the Australian Security Intelligence Organization to connect more dots in combating espionage and terrorism.

“Given the volume and complexity of data, we are not searching for a needle in a haystack, we are searching for a needle in a hayfield,” the director-general said.

Michael P. Burgess is an Australian intelligence official and the current Director-General of Security in charge of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. Prior to his appointment to this role on 16 September 2019, Burgess was director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organization is Australia’s national security agency responsible for the protection of the country and its citizens from espionage, sabotage, acts of foreign interference, politically motivated violence, attacks on the Australian defense system, and terrorism.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is the military organization responsible for the defense of Australia and its national interests. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and several “tri-service” units.

(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ritaban Misra)

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