Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed Parliament House in Canberra has been a target for terrorists and security will be beefed up. Mr. Abbott said a review of security at the building was conducted after the potential threats were identified.
The Australian Federal Police are ready to take over security inside and outside Parliament House in Canberra.
“One of the first consequences of the review of security has been moves to put Australian Federal Police back in charge of internal as well as external security. It is happening almost immediately.”
It is estimated that around 5,000 people work in the Parliament House. The Parliament House contains 4,700 rooms, and many areas are open to the public. It is a frequent attraction for tourists and schools alike.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said dramatic raids undertaken yesterday by 800 police officers were in response to concerns that a terrorist attack could be carried out “within days” based on encouragement from a key figure abroad.
“The advice of our police and security agencies was that an attack of this nature could take place within days… That’s why they acted with great determination.”
Senior intelligence sources confirmed that spy, police, and counter-terrorism agencies had intercepted information regarding a possible attack on Parliament House, and there were concerns the prime minister and other senior officials could be targeted. It is said that the attack would have been inspired by the Mumbai attacks of 2008 that involved automatic weapons.
In response, senior security sources identified that the most vulnerable entry point to the Parliament was the entrance to the ministerial wing, which could be infiltrated by “taking out” two unarmed parliamentary security officers who represent the only sentry point to prevent instant access to the PM’s own courtyard.
The Australian Federal Police were removed from the parliamentary security committee under the previous government in March last year, with the Department of Parliamentary Services taking over security at the building entrances.
According to senior security source, the Parliament House was deemed “an attractive option” for a terror attack because of its high status and the easy access to the public area, where hundreds of visitors mingle on a daily basis. But access to the more secure ministerial wings of the parliament building were also deemed unacceptably vulnerable.
Asked if the Australian public visiting Parliament House would be safe, Abbott said, “[I]t is a safe country but we have to be aware there are people… who would do us harm.”
[Image via Flickr]