SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s largest state Sunday said it was building a separate prison wing for extremist inmates to tackle radicalisation following a rise in homegrown attacks.
New South Wales, home to about a third of Australia’s 24-million-strong population, has been the site of two terror attacks in recent years, including a cafe siege in 2014 where two hostages were killed.
“We are in new territory. The incidents of terrorism activity we’ve seen in Australia and around the world has been unprecedented in modern times,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
The government said it was spending Aus$47 million (US$35 million) to create a jail within Goulburn Correctional Centre to separate inmates with extremist views from other prisoners to reduce radicalisation.
The new facility, which the government hopes to complete by 2018, can house up to 54 prisoners.
More than 30 of the 45 inmates currently held in Goulburn’s highest-security wing are behind bars on terror-related charges, Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin said.
He added that five prisoners had been radicalised while in jail in recent years.
The announcement came just days after state and territory leaders said they would look to restrict parole for criminals with terrorism-related links.
The changes came after a fatal shootout in Melbourne last week by a man of Somali background in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.
The man, 29-year-old Yacqub Khayre, was linked to a 2009 terror plot targeting an Australian army barracks and had been recently released on parole.
Khayre killed a receptionist at a serviced apartment block before dying in a gun battle with police.
Canberra has become increasingly worried about homegrown extremism and officials said earlier this year they had prevented 11 terror attacks on home soil in the past two years.
But several have taken place, including the murder of a Sydney police employee in 2015 by a 15-year-old boy, who was then killed in an exchange of gunfire with officers.
The federal government is also exploring options to increase requirements for mobile phone makers and social media companies to help investigators decrypt communications, Attorney-General George Brandis said Sunday.