Australia PM urges tighter migrant screening after terror scare

Australia PM urges tighter migrant screening after terror scare
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during a press conference after retaining the leadership of the Liberal party at Parliament House in Canberra.

SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Thursday urged tighter screening of migrants after police thwarted an alleged terror attack, while vowing that "ugly fanaticism" will be defeated.

Two men were arrested on Tuesday after police seized an Islamic State flag, a machete and an Arabic-language video detailing the apparent plot during a raid in Sydney.

Omar Al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, were charged with making preparations for a terrorist act. Their case was briefly mentioned in court Thursday and adjourned until March 16.

One of the men is suspected of entering Australia with fake documents in 2009, with the immigration department ordering an urgent review.

The revelation comes after it emerged that the Iranian-born man who carried out a cafe siege in Sydney in December, self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis, was granted a visa in 1996 despite Tehran's warnings about his criminal past.

Abbott said authorities must be extra careful in screening those seeking residency.

"We need to be conscious of our border security, what it says is that we need to be much more careful about giving people the benefit of the doubt," he said.

"If you look at the Martin Place murderer (Monis), he had been given the benefit of the doubt at every stage by our system. I suspect the same will turn out to be the case with these people."

Violent acts

Al-Kutobi was Iraqi-born while Kiad came from Kuwait, local reports said.

They were arrested just hours before allegedly carrying out an attack, which New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn described as "consistent with the messaging coming out of IS".

Abbott told parliament that the video seized allegedly showed one suspect kneeling in front of an IS flag, with a knife and machete, threatening to undertake violent acts.

"I swear to almighty Allah we will carry out the first operation for the soldiers of the caliphate in Australia," he said, Abbott claimed.

"He went on to say ... 'I swear to almighty Allah, blonde people, there is no room for blame between you and us. We only are you, stabbing the kidneys and striking the necks'."

The prime minister said it was not possible to "witness uglier fanaticism".

"Under current conditions, under the influence of the Islamist death cult, all you need to be a terrorist is a knife, a flag, a camera phone and a victim," he said.

"That's all you need. But we can defeat this threat. We will defeat this threat. We must defeat this threat."

Australia in September raised its terror threat level and carried out extensive raids in Sydney and Brisbane to disrupt an alleged plot by IS supporters to abduct and behead a random member of the public.

In December Monis took 17 people hostage for some 16 hours at a cafe on Sydney.

The stand-off ended after he shot dead cafe manager Tori Johnson, prompting police to storm the building and kill him. Another hostage was killed by a stray police bullet.

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