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Bin Laden threatened Australia in videotape

Saturday October 26, 08:33 PM   (

SYDNEY (AFP) - Osama bin Laden warned last year that Australia was on al-Qaeda's terrorism hit list because of its role in helping East Timor win independence from Indonesia.

A taped message from bin Laden last November was believed to be a coded signal to extremists in the region to begin preparing retaliatory attacks against Australians for the East Timor operation.

"The crusader Australian forces were on Indonesian shores ... and they landed on East Timor which

is part of the Islamic world," bin Laden said in the video recording, broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

At least 190 people were killed, about half of them Australian, in the October 12 car bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

The video, not previously broadcast in the West, indicated Australia should be punished for its role on the largely Christian island, setting back plans by Muslim radicals for a united Islamic nation.

Australian troops spearheaded the UN-backed Interfet force that restored peace in East Timor after militia went on a murderous rampage following a 1999 self-rule ballot in which the East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia.

The bin Laden video was aired Saturday in a BBC documentary tracing links between al-Qaeda and the bomb attacks in Bali.

The Panorama documentary claimed bin Laden opened a second front in his battle against the West and the Bali bombings were the opening salvo as al-Qaeda operatives, formerly massed in Afghanistan, began to fan out across the world in preparation for further attacks on Western interests.

The grainy video, which first appeared on the Islamic world's satellite television network al-Jazeera and rebroadcast by the BBC, shows the face of bin Laden condemning the "crusader" Australian forces massing on the Indonesian coast as they supported the East Timorese bid for independence.

Another statement attributed to bin Laden, the BBC said, called those behind a recent attack on a French oil tanker in Yemen "heroic."

The tapes emerged as the United Nations on Saturday declared Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the main suspect in the Bali bombing, as a terrorist organisation following a joint request by Australia and Indonesia.

"Every UN member nation in the world is now expected to take action against Jemaah Islamiah," a spokesman for Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said.

"Australia is very pleased the listing has been formalised and is pleased with the degree of international support it got," Downer's spokesman said.

As a result of the listing, UN member nations are required to act against Jemaah Islamiyah members and entities by freezing their assets, preventing their movement and blocking any attempts to sell or transfer arms.

The declaration sets off domestic legislation in Australia making membership of Jemaah Islamiyah illegal.

Ahead of the declaration, Australian authorities said they would move quickly to capture any Jemaah Islamiyah agents in the country.

Australia's top counter-intelligence agency, ASIO, revealed this week that members of the group had been in Australia.

Foreign affairs officials on Saturday meanwhile said the remains of 14 Australians would be flown back to their homeland from Bali after being formally identified.

The officials said they were working with Indonesian authorities to identify the remaining Australians as quickly as possible, although Downer said the task was proving difficult.

Authorities also revealed that an Indonesian woman died overnight in an Australian hospital from injuries sustained in the Bali blast.

The woman was believed to be a key witness to the attack as she had told investigators she saw a man with a suspicious object inside one of the bombed nightclubs.