Reports are pouring in from Australia alleging that the death forest fire in which nearly 200 people died was set by an Islamist group which had last year threatened to carry out such a terrorist act.
Suspicions that the worst wildfires ever to strike Australia were deliberately set have already led that nation’s police to declare towns incinerated by blazes to be crime scenes.
Last year in September, Islamic extremists urged Muslims via the Internet to deliberately light bush fires as a weapon of terror.
US intelligence channels identified the website calling on Muslims in Australia, the US, Europe and Russia to “start forest fires”, claiming “scholars have justified chopping down and burning the infidels’ forests when they do the same to our lands.”
The website, posted by a group called the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network, argues in Arabic that lighting fires is an effective form of terrorism justified in Islamic law under the “eye for an eye” doctrine.
The posting - which instructs jihadis to remember “forest jihad” in summer months - says fires cause economic damage and pollution, tie up security agencies and can take months to extinguish so that “this terror will haunt them for an extended period of time.”
“Imagine if, after all the losses caused by such an event, a jihadist organisation were to claim responsibility for the forest fires,” the website says. “You can hardly begin to imagine the level of fear that would take hold of people in the United States, in Europe, in Russia and in Australia.”
When the report was made, Australian intelligence agencies confirmed that they were treating the possibility of bush fires being used as a weapon of terrorism as “a serious concern.”
The Internet posting by the little-known group claimed the idea of forest fires had been attributed to imprisoned Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab Al-Suri. It said Al-Suri had urged terrorists to use sulphuric acid and petrol to start forest fires.
* The original report on the Jihad fire threat, as published in The Australian newspaper on September 7th last year, was pulled from the Internet by that publication this afternoon. It is worth bearing in mind that as of writing, no firm evidence has yet emerged to claim that recent devastating fire has any Islamist cause.