Canberra: Home-grown extremists are actively considering launching terrorist attacks in Australia as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks nears.
The latest intelligence also suggests sporting venues, transport hubs and other places of mass gatherings have become the favoured targets of terrorist planners, the Courier Mail reports.
"Clearly there are extremists now on our shores. There are people out there who genuinely think about doing bad things, or support terrorist acts overseas," Australian Federal Police counter-terrorism chief Steve Lancaster said.
Lancaster also revealed that the police have secretly foiled several potential terrorist threats in Australia by disrupting them at an early stage.
Religious extremists who follow a distorted and militant interpretation of Islam are still the biggest threat to Australians, he said, adding that it is very difficult for any agency to stop a lone terrorist who decides to walk into a crowded place with a gun or bomb.
Terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah remain powerful threats to Australia.
A Federal Government counter-terrorism White Paper warned last year that some Australians were known by authorities to subscribe to the violent jihadist message sprouted by Muslim extremists.
"Many of these individuals were born in Australia. The emergence and activity of terrorist cells in Australia, inspired by the narrative espoused by al Qaeda, is likely to continue,” it said.
"Prior to the rise of self-styled jihadist terrorism fostered by al Qaeda, Australia itself was not a specific target. We now are," it added.
Lancaster, however, admitted that the AFP had made mistakes in some aspects of the probe into falsely accused terrorism suspect Dr Mohamed Haneef in 2007.
"I can tell you the Haneef affair hurt the organisation. It had an enormous impact on morale within the organisation. Our response to terrorism continues to evolve since September 11,” he added.
First Published: Friday, September 02, 2011, 11:35