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Australia, Iran to share intelligence to combat ISIS fighters

Australia, Iran to share intelligence to combat ISIS fighters
Australia and Iran have agreed to share intelligence to combat Islamic State militants fighting in the Middle East. The arrangement was made in Tehran during a visit by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.

Bishop revealed the tentative deal following a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Monday. Bishop is the first top Australian diplomat to have visited Iran in a decade.

"It was an informal arrangement whereby we'd share intelligence that would give us information on the Australians who are taking part," she said.

"I believe Iran has information that we would seek and they were very agreeable to share that information with us."

Bishop added that Rouhani dubbed the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) the “most significant global threat at present.”

READ MORE: Aussie teens arrested in Melbourne over alleged 'ISIS-inspired' terrorist plot

In an effort to combat IS, Canberra has already sent hundreds of soldiers to Iraq to help train forces fighting the militant group. The move has escalated fears of reprisal attacks on Australian soil.

Australian law enforcement has indeed been faced with a number of potential IS-inspired attacks over the past year.

On Saturday, five teens were arrested in Australia for planning what they claimed was an IS-inspired attack at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the landing by Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli in World War I.

The arrests followed a series of raids in Melbourne, following a month-long operation involving more than 200 officers.

In December, an IS sympathizer took hostages in a Sydney cafe, leading to a 17-hour siege. Two captives were killed when officers stormed the building.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in February the country's terrorism threat has risen dramatically recently, with one-third of all terrorism-related arrests since 2001 occurring in the past six months. At least 110 Australians have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside extremists, with the nation's security agency conducting over 400 high-priority counterterrorism investigations - more than double the number a year ago, according to Abbott.

Canberra, a strong ally of Washington, is part of the US-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.