Australia to expand its role in fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq

PM Turnbull announces intentions to heavily target ISIS, warns of increased terror attacks in Asia

CANBERRA — Australia will step up airstrikes against Islamic State, allowing its military for the first time to attack support facilities as well as militant fighters.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that his government would “fully empower” troops combating ISIS – also known as Daesh – by removing restrictions on overseas operations under the country’s rules of engagement.

Malcolm Turnbull announced the plan to heavily target ISIS, warning that Australians could fall victim to deadly terrorism attacks in south-east Asia as networks of extremists are galvanised and attracting new recruits.

Mr. Turnbull said Australian laws will soon be amended to give Australian F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet pilots the same legal standing as their coalition partners when conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. He also confirmed the government would introduce further counter-terrorism legislation including a post-sentence preventative detention system and control orders for younger Australians deemed vulnerable to radicalisation.

The prime minister told parliament on Thursday morning that Australian domestic law was “more restrictive than international law”, posing a legal risk that is “a major challenge to the effectiveness of our operations”.

“It meant that the [Australian defence force’s] targeting base in Iraq and Syria was restricted, and we could not operate as freely as our coalition partners.”

Australia’s chief of the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, explained that domestic law only allows strikes against “those Daesh forces that are taking a direct and active part in hostilities”.

“It doesn’t allow us to target those important supporting elements that are key to their fighting ability, eg their logistics and support organisations.”

The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, told parliament Labor would “continue to take the same constructive approach” it had in the 44th parliament when it helped the government pass four rounds of national security legislation, with some amendments.

He said he agreed with the principle of “targeting all members of Daesh … [but] of course we will need to see how the law and the drafting works”.

Separately, the government will introduce legislation to Parliament this month that would enable courts to keep prisoners convicted of terrorist offences behind bars for indefinite periods after their sentences are completed if they continue to pose threats. The new laws could apply to 13 prisoners serving lengthy sentences in Australian prisons and another 36 suspects who are awaiting trial on serious terrorism charges.

Australia joined the US-backed coalition against Islamic State in September 2014, and has steadily increased its military participation against the group that has repeatedly called for attacks against the United States and other Western countries

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