SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday that he was deeply worried about the potential for lone wolf terror attacks, days after an 18-year-old suspected militant was shot dead while attacking police.
Abdul Numan Haider was killed on Tuesday after he stabbed two police officers outside a Melbourne police station, seriously injuring one whom he knifed in the head, neck and stomach.
The incident followed major terror raids in Sydney and Brisbane to foil an alleged plot by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syra (ISIS) to carry out "demonstration killings", including a beheading.
"I am deeply concerned about the threat that lone wolf terrorism poses to people," Abbott told Network Seven from New York where he is attending United Nations meetings. "That's why we had those raids in Sydney and Brisbane and that seems to be what we saw outside a Melbourne police station a couple of days ago".
Abbott's government raised the terror threat level in Australia to high earlier this month, and is also tightening counter-terror laws to give spy agencies greater powers, while cracking down on citizens who travel overseas to fight alongside ISIS militants.
The government says some 60 Australians are in Iraq and Syria to engage in unrest and has warned they could return home radicalised and prepared to commit attacks on home soil.
"I'm very concerned but I want to assure people that our police, our security and intelligence agencies are as professional as any in the world," Abbott said. "And we are maintaining maximum vigilance to keep our country safe."
Australia has been a strong supporter of US efforts in Iraq, and is expected to join in international air strikes against ISIS fighters. "People should go about their normal lives because what terrorists are trying to do is scare us out of being ourselves," Abbott added.
Amid fears that the heightened tensions could create a backlash against Australian Muslims, the defence force apologised on Friday for any alarm caused by a claim that a 41-year-old officer had been attacked in Sydney while wearing his uniform.
The man has now withdrawn the allegation and police will investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident, the Australian Defence Force said.
"On behalf of the Australian Defence Force I would like to apologise to the Australian community and particularly the Middle Eastern community for any angst that this has caused," Air Chief Marshall Mark Binskin said.