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‘Anti-government’ ideology behind alleged Windang terror attack: police

Police have charged a man with committing an act of terrorism after he allegedly armed himself with two large guns and fired at members of the public before barricading himself inside a shop south of Sydney last year.

It is the first time an individual who is alleged to have “an ideologically motivated violent extremist ideology” has been charged with committing a terror attack in Australia, AFP Assistant Commissioner Scott Lee told reporters on Wednesday. He added that the alleged attack was consistent with the current terror threat from “lone wolf” actors with “mixed ideologies”, which boil down to being anti-government.

The “frightening” incident unfolded on a Sunday morning on the main street of Windang, near Wollongong, on November 28. Police responded to reports that a man armed with two firearms had fired at vehicles and pedestrians before entering a dive shop on Windang Road.

Video taken by bystanders showed a man clad head-to-toe in black and carrying a large gun appearing to take shots outside on the quiet shopping strip.

It’s alleged that, after entering the dive shop, 40-year-old Simon Fleming barricaded himself inside and briefly held the store owner hostage while an employee managed to escape. The owner of the store was later released uninjured.

Local police – assisted by heavily armed tactical officers, negotiators, the bomb squad and the dog unit – established a perimeter at the scene and, following negotiations, the man surrendered. He was arrested about 10.30am and taken to Lake Illawarra police station where he was charged with six offences. Nobody was hurt in the incident.

As part of ongoing investigations, a crime scene warrant was executed at a home at Windang, where several items, including firearms, knives and electronic devices, were seized for further examination.

Police said he was found to be in possession of several documents containing extremist ideologies and a willingness to commit violent acts.

The NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team – made up of members from the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the NSW Crime Commission – subsequently began an investigation into the man’s activities, under Operation Bletsoe.

On Wednesday, Mr Fleming appeared via audio-visual link at Wollongong Local Court where the new charge of engaging in a terrorist act was laid.

The maximum penalty for the offence is life imprisonment.

Speaking with reporters in Sydney on Wednesday, NSW Police Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Mark Walton, said the alleged incident is consistent with the current “probable” security threat posed by “lone actors, and particularly people with an ideology, and mixed ideologies”.

Assistant Commissioner Walton said those ideologies can range from white supremacy to anti-vaccination, but underpinning most, currently, is anti-government ideology.

He urged the community to continue to be vigilant and report suspicious activity to police “so that we can continue to be successful and intervene in matters of risk before they move into matters of violence”.

While “it’s fine for people to have their own views”, Assistant Commissioner Walton said, the “exponential consumption of these ideologies on the internet” is increasing the likelihood of their proponents turning to violence.

Commissioner Lee also urged people “who have got insights into their family members” to come forward if they suspect radicalisation and enable police to intervene. He said police would “act where we can to support those individuals to disengage them from further radicalisation”.

The lone wolf threat is “further exacerbated by the global narrative that continues to be shared on online environments, and how that either directs, inspires or influences individuals within our country,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed, “where we have individuals in the community who are physically and socially isolated, or they spend a lot of time in the online environment.”

Commissioner Lee also stressed that police “target criminality regardless of the background of the perpetrator. We target criminal activity, not ideologies or backgrounds.”

Investigations by the NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team are continuing, but police said there was no ongoing threat to the community relating to this investigation.



New Species Discovered Online By Botanists

In Australia, researchers discover several unknown carnivorous plants – not in the open air, but on the Internet. Research in front of the screen is now part of everyday life for botanists. Many creatures would otherwise remain undiscovered before they became extinct, they explain.

Social media has become a treasure trove for species researchers: a German-Australian team of scientists did not discover four out of six new carnivorous plants during field research in Western Australia, but identified them on Facebook, Instagram & Co. They were posted there by nature photographers, according to a statement on the study.

Such data, often published accidentally, sometimes intentionally, by hobby photographers and citizen scientists have become a valuable source for biodiversity researchers. And thus of great importance for the protection of many animal and plant species, emphasized Andreas Fleischmann from the Munich State Botanical Collection and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. “In particular, it would not have been possible for us to determine the distribution areas of very rare species without this additional wealth of data.”

“Race Against Time”

He and his team had described six previously unknown carnivorous sundew species found in Western Australia and published the results of the investigations in the journal Biology. So far, only three species from the so-called Drosera microphylla species complex were known. Although many species are becoming extinct worldwide in the 21st century, new animal and plant species are still being discovered. “A race against time,” emphasized the scientists. Without the intensive work of species researchers, “many creatures would become extinct without ever having been known before”.

In the meantime, there is far more observation data from lay scientists in social media and even in scientific biodiversity databases than data from research collections, especially for the visually conspicuous carnivorous plants, according to a statement from the state collection on the study. For example, a sundew species from South Africa was known from three historical herbarium specimens and seven photos on a Citizen Science website in 2018.

Today there are already 307 observations from 131 amateur researchers interested in nature on the internet platform. “Meanwhile, the number of known herbarium specimens of sundew from South Africa in the scientific collections has remained the same.”

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Australian Open Ban On Russian, Belarusian Flags Sparks Debate

The Australian Open tennis organization today banned the display of Russian and Belarusian flags at the tournament venue, after a man hung the Russian flag in the stands during Sunday’s opening match between Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia and Ukraine. Kateryna Kozlova.

“The flags of Russia and Belarus are prohibited within the Australian Open,” the Australian Tennis Federation said in a statement.

“Our initial policy was that fans could bring them, but they couldn’t use them to disturb. Yesterday we had an incident where a Russian flag was placed next to the track,” the entity said.

“The ban is effective immediately. We will continue to work with the players and fans to ensure the best possible environment to enjoy tennis,” the text added, quoted by the AFP news agency.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, dozens of Russian athletes, teams and federations have been removed from major competitions or forced to participate without a flag.

This new sanction comes in response to a complaint from the Ukrainian Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Vasil Miroshnichenko, who last night called on Tennis Australia to take action against the display of these flags.

“We strongly condemn the public display of the Russian flag during Ukrainian tennis player Kateryna Kozlova’s match at the Australian Open,” he tweeted.

“I call on Tennis Australia to immediately implement its ‘neutral flag’ policy,” he added.

Ukrainian Won The Match

The Ukrainian won the match 7-5, 6-7 (8/10), 6-1 and will face American Caty McNally in the second round.

Ambassador Miroshnichenko had requested last week that the tournament completely ban players from Russia and Belarus from participating.

Wimbledon opted for this measure last year and banned players from these two countries in the tournament, which as a result did not count for the rankings by decision of the ATP and WTA.

The Russian embassy in Australia criticized “another example of the unacceptable politicization of the sport” and regretted that, in addition to carrying a neutral flag, its players “cannot be visibly supported by the fans.”

For her part, the Belarusian and world number five Aryna Sabalenka said that she was not opposed to the ban on flags “if everyone felt better like this”, but pointed out that sport “has nothing to do with politics”. .

“It’s not fair. People are dying there,” said Ukrainian tennis player Oleksii Krutykh, who assured that his country’s players were “shocked” by the appearance of Russian flags in the stands.

A Russian banner also appeared on Melbourne’s center court, Rod Laver Arena, during Russian Daniil Medvedev’s match against American Marcos Giron.

“It’s not fair what they’re doing,” said the 22-year-old Krutykh after his first-round loss to Argentine Diego Schwartzman.

“I think the guys who did it (display flags during the Koslova match) were Russians who live here, so they don’t care about what happens in my country,” said the young man, who was out of town when the war broke out. country and settled in Berlin.

“It may be ugly to say it, but if I want to go back to Ukraine, I can go back, but then I can’t leave because I’m 22 years old,” Krutykh explained, referring to the fact that he is of fighting age.

On the other hand, yesterday it became known that Russia and Belarus are off the list of countries that will broadcast the Olympic Games during the period between 2026 and 2032.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that it awarded all audiovisual rights in Europe until 2032 to the European Broadcasting Union and Warner Bros Discovery, which will broadcast in 49 countries and exclude Russia and Belarus, the Sputnik news agency reported.

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Saudi women in Sydney: Sisters’ bodies lay undiscovered for a month

Australian police are baffled after the bodies of two Saudi women, believed to have lain undiscovered for a month, were found in a Sydney apartment.

Sisters Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23, were found dead on 7 June in separate beds at home in the suburb of Canterbury.

Police, who were called to the property for a welfare check, said the women are believed to have died in early May.

But despite “extensive inquiries”, they still do not know how or why.

The sisters moved to Australia from Saudi Arabia in 2017 and may have sought asylum, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Police refused to confirm this, saying they do not comment on residential status.

A human rights organisation said it should be established whether the women fled Saudi Arabia because of domestic violence or harsh laws governing women. However, there is no evidence this is the case.

Police said they had been in contact with the women’s family, which is assisting them with inquiries.

Lina al-Hathloul, head of monitoring and communications at Saudi human rights organisation ALQST, said it “would not be the first case” of Saudi women who were killed abroad after fleeing domestic violence.

“There are no protections for women who are victims of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia, so they flee abroad,” she told the BBC.

She added: “I’m not saying that is the case here, just that we need a thorough investigation. It is frustrating not to have any information.”

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, there had been signs that something was wrong.

Last year, the women told their building manager they thought someone was tampering with their food deliveries, the paper reported.

A plumber who visited the apartment also said he believed there was “something mysterious” going on, and that police had been called in the past over concerns for the women.

New South Wales Police issued a renewed plea to the public on Wednesday, saying “any piece of information” could be the key to solving this case.

The local community is close-knit, police said in a statement, asking anyone who may have known or seen the women to come forward.

A report from Australian current affairs programme Four Corners in 2019 found 80 Saudi women had tried to seek asylum in Australia in recent years. Many of them were fleeing male guardianship laws.


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