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Al-Qaeda allies in Australia - ASIO

By Cynthia Banham
October 25, 2002   (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/10/24/1035416935638.html)

Members of Jemaah Islamiyah, the organisation suspected of carrying out the Bali bombings, have visited Australia several times in the past year, the nations's main intelligence organisation has confirmed.

The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation also revealed the presence in Australia of people who had been trained by, or had links with, the al-Qaeda terrorist group, as well as Australians who had received "advanced terrorist training" in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Declaring that Islamic extremists posed the nation's most significant security threat, ASIO's annual report said "key regional Jemaah Islamiyah leaders and members" had visited Australia.

The report also acknowledged Australia's profile as a terrorist target had risen as a result of its involvement in the war of terrorism.

Also yesterday, the Prime Minister, John Howard, announced a new criminal offence of "extra-territorial murder" which would allow Australia to prosecute the perpetrators of the Bali bombings, who are not dealt with under Indonesian law.

The offence would have retrospective effect from October 1, before the Kuta attacks, and would apply when another country allowed someone to be tried here.

It formed the key component of the Government's initial response to its review of Australia's counter-terrorism capacity, ordered in the wake of the Bali attacks.

Additional measures announced by Mr Howard - which he stressed were the "first instalment" of the Government's response - included:

  • More than $27 million in extra funding for the Immigration Department and Customs to improve document and visa checks of people entering the country;
  • Expansion of the air marshal program from domestic flights to selected international flights;
  • An extra $31 million to beef up security at Australia's overseas diplomatic posts;
  • A new $500,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of people committing terrorist offences, adding to the $2 million reward already on offer for information on those responsible for the Bali bombings.

The ASIO report said a number of Australians were known to have trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, from "basic military training to advanced terrorist training".

"At home, we face a sustained high level of threat to US, UK and some other foreign interests, and overall threat levels have been raised in respect of civil aviation, national symbols and attacks involving chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons."

The Commonwealth signed a co-operative counter-terrorism agreement with the states and territories yesterday.

But the NSW Premier, Bob Carr, and his Victorian counterpart, Steve Bracks, called for the mobilisation of armed forces to protect key state infrastructure and sites such as Lucas Heights and the Sydney Harbour Bridge - a proposal the Prime Minister greeted without enthusiasm.

"I want to make it plain that the civilian police function is a matter for state police forces and I'm not going to have a situation where the ordinary civilian police role is taken over by the military," he said. "That is not Australia and it won't ever be Australia as far as I'm concerned."