ASIO boss warns of ‘spontaneous violence’ as Israel-Palestine conflict linked to spate of attacks

Funeral for six-year-old killed in hate crime

The head of Australia’s intelligence agency says he anticipates “spontaneous violence” amid an outbreak of deadly attacks after the Israel-Palestine conflict.

ASIO director-general of security Mike Burgess on Tuesday urged all Australians – including the nation’s politicians – to play their part in minimising tensions, during a press conference with FBI director Christopher Wray ahead of a major Five Eyes summit in San Francisco.

“We do see a direct correlation between language that inflames tension and out of that tension does grow a small number of people who think violence is the answer,” Burgess said.

“It’s something that we all have to be mindful of, and that’s for all Australians to play their part,” he said.

When asked if his message was directed at Australian politicians – some of whom have been accused divisive rhetoric – Burgess replied it was “for everybody”.

Belgium is on its highest terror alert after killings claimed by Islamic State. Photo: Getty

Belgian terror

Belgium raised its terror alert to the highest level on Tuesday after two Swedes were shot dead in central Brussels hours as the two nations played a Euro 2024 football match.

Belgian police were still hunting for the gunman on Tuesday afternoon (AEDT) – a man who claimed in a video on social media that he was from Islamic State.

Burgess said Australia’s threat level remained at “possible”.

He said ASIO did not see any reason to change it “at this point in time”, although the situation was under constant review.

The Belgian attack created such fear in Brussels that authorities cancelled the Belgium-Sweden qualifying match at half-time and held 35,000 fans inside the King Baudouin Stadium, where it was being played.

Federal prosecutor’s office spokesman Eric Van Duyse said the investigation centred on “a possible terrorist motivation” after “a claim of responsibility was posted on social media”.

“This person claims to be inspired by Islamic State,” Van Duyse said.

“The Swedish nationality of the victims was put forward as the probable motive.”

In August, Sweden raised its terror alert to the second-highest level after threats from Islamic militant groups followed public burnings of the Koran by an Iraqi refugee living in Sweden.

The alleged assailant, calling himself Abdesalem al-Guilani and a fighter for Allah, said there were three victims rather than two.

France, meanwhile, is deploying 7000 extra troops onto its streets after a teacher was fatally stabbed on Friday in an attack President Emmanuel Macron condemned as “barbaric Islamic terrorism.”

“Europe is being shaken,” Macron said.

US hate killing

In the US, a 71-year-old man was charged with murder and a hate crime on Monday after stabbing a Chicago boy and his mother because they were Muslims.

“Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis,” the Will county sheriff’s office said.

Six-year-old Wadea al-Fayoume died after the attack. His mother, 32-year-old Hanaan Shahin, was seriously injured and could not attend his funeral as she remains in hospital.

Wadea’s uncle, Mahmoud Yousef, told the hundreds gathered for the little boy’s funeral: “When he [Wadea] was stabbed his last words to his mom were, ‘Mom, I’m fine.’ You know what, he is fine. He’s in a better place.”

On Tuesday, Wray said he was “horrified” by last week’s Hamas attack on Israel and said the US did not “discount the possibility that Hamas or other foreign terrorist organisations could exploit the conflict to call on their supporters to conduct attacks here on our on home soil”.

“We’re particularly alert to the potential that these events have to inspire violence against Jewish Americans, against Muslim Americans, institutions, houses of worship here etcetera,” he said.

-with AAP

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