Australia — An expert on terrorism says the bushfire disaster could have been a “forest jihad”.
Queensland academic Dr Mervyn Bendle said police had been too hasty in dismissing a possible link, despite a stream of chatter on terrorist websites urging supporters to conduct a pyro-terror attack.
Dr Bendle said radical Muslims were being encouraged to switch from spectacular 9/11-type attacks to more achievable arson assaults.
“Pyro-terrorism is inherently low-tech in nature and requires only primitive technical materials to carry out attacks,” he said.
“It is inexpensive and logistically comparatively uncomplicated.”
In a 6000-word essay in the latest conservative journal National Observer, Dr Bendle argues terrorist experts overseas are investigating deliberately-lit forest fires in Israel, Spain, Greece and Estonia.
Dr Bendle writes that the bushfire disaster happened just days after Abdul Nacer Benbrika and six others were sentenced for being members of a terrorist organisation.
Weeks earlier, the Israeli army had bombed the Gaza strip.
“A successful pyro-terrorist attack executed on a sufficiently large scale significantly destabilises the political and social systems of the target society,” Dr Bendle writes.
When claims of a possible terrorist involvement in the Victorian fires were initially raised, police dismissed the suggestion. They said the Muslim community donated blood to the Red Cross, and the Preston mosque sent material to fire victims.
But Dr Bendle said the statement was issued while many of the fires were still out of control.
“Some of the fires had not even broken out, among them many that were successfully lit,” he said.
“Access to many of the fire crime scenes was not possible, well before the final death toll had been estimated and certainly well before any significant investigations could be undertaken to actually determine the causes of the fires and the identities of the arsonists.”