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Australian police carried out a series of raids and detained 15 people on Thursday after they received intelligence about an alleged plot to carry out public beheadings. Court documents allege the plan was formulated at the urging of a senior Islamic State member who is overseas and wanted by the Australian police. Mubin Shaikh, a former security-intelligence officer who infiltrated the “Toronto 18” terrorist cell in 2006, said there’s no reason to believe Canada would be immune from those who might share a similar ideology.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

A foiled plan in Australia to carry out "demonstration killings" in support of Islamic State extremists is raising concerns that a similar terrorist threat could exist in Canada, security experts say.

Australian police carried out a series of raids and detained 15 people on Thursday after they received intelligence about an alleged plot to carry out public beheadings. Court documents allege the plan was formulated at the urging of a senior Islamic State member who is overseas and wanted by the Australian police.

Mubin Shaikh, a former security-intelligence officer who infiltrated the "Toronto 18" terrorist cell in 2006, said there's no reason to believe Canada would be immune from those who might share a similar ideology.

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"You have the same types of people in Canada," Mr. Shaikh said in an interview. "I mean, it is impossible that we can have individuals who are in Syria [and] individuals in Canada who wish they were in Syria – and then to also think they won't be thinking the same way," as the alleged plotters in Australia, he said. "Of course they will be thinking the same way."

Canada's spy agency estimates that close to 130 Canadians are involved in supporting or committing extremist activities abroad, about 30 of whom are believed to be in Syria, where Islamic State militants now control large swaths of territory.

A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney declined to say whether Canadian officials were in communication with their Australian counterparts about the investigation. "While we cannot comment on matters of national security, Minister Blaney has been clear, terrorism is a serious threat and a global issue. That is why we are working with our allies to prevent and stop terrorists," Jason Tamming wrote in an e-mail.

Mr. Shaikh said the Muslim community in Canada is playing an important role in combatting extremist ideology by sharing information with security officials when concerns arise. He also suggested some community groups could be better funded to help them work with people who might be susceptible to extremist ideology. "It's not a question of hiring more police and getting more shiny toys; it's empowering the communities that are directly impacted by this at the outset."

Ray Boisvert, a former assistant director of intelligence with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said there will probably be lessons that Canadian security organizations can glean from the Australian investigation, in part because an individual looking to engage in terrorism will sometimes try to replicate what they know about another group or individual's strategies. In addition, the discovery of one plot can sometimes lead to information about other groups or possible terrorist cells, he said.

It's likely that Australia would have shared information about the investigation with Canada, Mr. Boisvert added, because both countries are part of the Five Eyes surveillance network, which also includes the United States, New Zealand and Britain.

"You can't really ensure that this won't happen in Canada; it's just the nature of it," Mr. Boisvert added. "The advantage always goes to the attackers."

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Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is expected to address the crisis in Iraq and Syria during a meeting of the UNSecurity Council in New York this Friday.

With a report from the Associated Press

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