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Jihadism a global challenge that must be tackled collectively, says former Australian PM Kevin Rudd

December 16th, 2014
12:00 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

In the wake of the more than 16-hour Sydney siege by a self-styled Muslim cleric, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Monday that jihadism is a challenge that concerns all, and tackling it requires collective effort.

“This violent jihadism represents a challenge for civilized peoples everywhere. And so it’s a challenge for us all to come together and I believe work at two levels.”

“The first is through the intensification of our efforts, as security and law enforcement authorities around the world work collaboratively against this common foe to us all.”

“And secondly, dealing also with some of the lessons which are slowly emerging from countries around the world about what motivates such people to join these organizations from coherent multicultural societies around the world as well.”

Early Tuesday, Australian authorities stormed the Lindt Chocolate Café, where a gunman identified as Man Haron Monis had been holding hostages for some 16 hours. Monis was shot and killed, and two of the 17 hostages died.

Rudd, now a Senior Fellow with Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, said he was shocked by “this appalling and violent attack” and called it “an assault on the innocents and Sydney.”

The former Prime Minister insisted that “Sydney is a very open and welcoming city,” part of “an extraordinarily peaceful country.”

“We have half a million Muslim Australians who are fine, upstanding members of the Australian community.”

The problem, he explained, lies in the “people who operate at the fringes of the community.”

An Iranian refugee, 50-year-old Monis was well-known to authorities. He faced a series of previous criminal charges, including being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and pleaded guilty last year to writing offensive letters to the families of dead soldiers.

“In any society you’re going to have people who are very much at the fringes of the margins and obviously this individual was.”

“We also [have] some hundreds of young Australians who are fighting with ISIS in the Middle East, and as you find them from the United Kingdom and Germany and elsewhere as well.”

Rudd said he was aware that Australia’s security intelligence agencies were “constantly engaged in dealing” with the terrorist threat.

“On Australia I should add this, the government intelligently lifted the threat assessment in Australia to high for the first time in eleven years, as a consequence of recent intelligence reporting and recommendations to the government.”

He also praised the Australian society for sticking together “at this important moment.”

“During the course of today, the Grand Mufti of Australia stood up and condemned this action by the hostage taker, by the gunman. We had combined prayers at Sydney’s largest mosque involving Jewish leaders, Muslim leaders and our Catholic and Christian leaders as well.”

“So there are people who operate at the fringes of the community, but the remarkable thing has been this pulling together of the Australian community, including our Muslim brothers and sisters on this critical day to make sure that we are as one and responding to this action by what appears to be a lone wolf.”

Click above to watch the full interview.

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