Features of Australian Islamic State-inspired terrorists

Dr Russ Scott1

1Queensland Prison Mental Health Service, Woolloongabba , Australia

In Australia, the Commonwealth Criminal Code section 100 defines a “terrorist act” as an action (or threat of action) done or made with two specific intentions: (1) the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause, and (2) the intention of coercing, or influencing by intimidation, the government of the Commonwealth or a State, Territory or foreign country or intimidating the public or a section of the public.

Operational security refers to the behaviours by which a lone actor or small terrorist cell minimises the likelihood of detection whilst planning or preparing a terrorist attack. “Leakage” refers to the behaviours whereby a ‘would-be’ terrorist intentionally or unintentionally divulges their motivation, capability or resolve to commit a terrorist act. A study from the U.S. found that even skilled terrorists leave clues as to their violent intentions, either through poor ‘tradecraft’ or to deliberately attract notoriety. A recent study of the attack-planning and preparation of 55 lone-actors highlighted the infrequency with which lone-actors took operational security.

As well as accessing extremist sermons and on-line propaganda including videos of bombings, shootings and beheadings, Australian Islamic State-inspired domestic terrorists demonstrate a number of common features. This paper examines the cases of Abdul Numan Haider (aged 18) Sevet Besim (aged 18) and Farhad Jabar (aged 15) who shared similarities in their preparation, methods and targets and all demonstrated a clear Islamic State-inspired terrorist intent. It is noteworthy that by the time of the Lindt café siege in December 2015, Iranian-born Man Haron Monis was aged 50 and demonstrated none of the features of recognised Islamic State-inspired terrorists.


Dr Scott was the first psychiatrist to obtain the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists accredited sub-specialty forensic qualification. Between 2008 – 2011, he was the medical issues section editor of the Journal of Law and Medicine. Up to 2016, Dr Scott was the consultant to the acute male inpatient unit of the High Security Inpatient Services and between 2014 – 2015 was the Chief Training Supervisor at the Park – Centre for Mental Health. Dr Scott is currently a consultant psychiatrist to the Queensland Prison Mental Health Service and is the immediate past-president of the Queensland Branch of ANZAPPL.

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