The Sydney siege could be the latest in a series of attacks carried out around the world this year by lone radical Islamists, some in response to the West’s battle against the Islamic State
The Sydney siege could be part of a pattern of attacks this year by jihadists responding to a call to arms by the Islamic State, which has urged “lone wolf” attackers to strike back at the West.
“We have not seen a huge amount of evidence of Isil cells going abroad from Syria and Iraq but we have seen a number of attacks by people claiming links to the group,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a counter-terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute.
In May, 29-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche, who was under surveillance by the French police after he returned from fighting for Isil in Syria, launched a gun attack at the Jewish museum in Brussels, killing four.
In August, David Cameron warned that Isil now poses a direct threat, arguing that if the UK does not “it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain.”
He added: “We already know that it has the murderous intent. Indeed, the first Isil-inspired terrorist acts on the continent of Europe have already taken place.”
In September, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI put out a joint intelligence bulletin that the Islamic State has the capability to mount attacks on US targets overseas with “little to no warning.”
In October, Martin Couture Rouleau, 25, ran down two Canadian soldiers in Quebec in his car, killing one of them. Couture Rouleau was known to the authorities as someone who had been radicalised and police had seized his passport in July as he tried to fly to Turkey.
Investigators also said Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who killed a soldier at the Canadian parliament in Ottawa in October, was also “driven by ideological and political motives”.
Also in October, the New York Police Department said Zale Thompson, who attacked four officers with an axe, injuring two, regularly visited Isil and Al Qaeda websites.
“We haven’t heard much about this incident [in Sydney],” said Mr Pantucci “He had up a flag and he looked like he had on another flag, so it looks and feels Islamist.”
He said Islamists had discussed an attack involving hostages since the Mumbai siege in 2008. “Ever since then, we have seen Al Qaeda and other groups talking about it because it was so high profile and attacted a lot of attention,” he said.
Mr Pantucci said there is a growing trend for “lone acts of terrorism”, saying: “Isil has pushed the idea even further and it seems to be resonating more intensely.
“It is a lot harder [to catch] because intelligence relies on setting trip wires that people cross when they communicate with each other. If people are not talking to others and they are plotting attacks with stuff they can find in their household, like knives, it is a lot harder to find them.”
11 Terrors shall make him afraid on every side, and shall drive him to his feet.
12 His strength shall be hungerbitten, and destruction shall be ready at his side.
6 Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, even blood shall pursue thee.
7 Thus will I make mount Seir most desolate, and cut off from it him that passeth out and him that returneth.