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Arrests put local communities in the spotligh -

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ELEANOR HALL: The men arrested and being questioned are Australian nationals.

But as we've been hearing, police made clear this morning that the suspects are of Somali and
Lebanese descent and that the suspected terrorist cell had links to a militant Islamist group in
Somalia.

As Emily Bourke reports the raids and arrests have thrown a spotlight on Victoria's Somali and
Islamic communities.

EMILY BOURKE: Police allege the young men arrested this morning didn't just have their eyes on
Australian military bases as their main targets.

They are also alleged to have been involved in supporting the Islamic insurgency in Somalia, as the
acting commissioner of the Australian Federal Police Tony Negus explained earlier today.

TONY NEGUS: Details of the planning indicated the alleged offenders were prepared to inflict a
sustained attack on military personnel until they themselves were killed. The investigation has
also identified the alleged travel of Australian citizens to Somali to participate in hostilities
in that country. The alleged member of the group have been actively seeking a fatwa or religious
ruling to justify the group's plan to conduct a terrorist act in Australia.

EMILY BOURKE: Terrorism experts say the practice of Islamic radicals linking up with insurgencies
overseas is well established.

Dr Pete Lentini is the director of the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Melbourne's Monash
University.

He says militants entrenched in conflicts abroad have been finding some sympathy within the
Australian-Islamic community.

DR PETE LENTINI: For about a decade with these types of neo-jihadis terrorists, Australia has been
in the firing line ever since we had the intervention in East Timor. So, you know, this goes back
quite a long way that Australia has consistently featured in a lot of terrorist activities.

Also the situation in Somali has been grim for nearly close to 20 years now, and during that time
it's been predominantly a failed state. So, to a certain extent, you've got a situation very, very
similar to Afghanistan, things collapsing, opportunities for people to train. And I think that's
one of the things that really is significant when we look at developments to about 2006, 2007 when
the most recent round of the civil war started to get reinvigorated with the Al Shabab militia,
actually had some... well, there were reports that young Australians of Somali background were
going back actually to fight for that particular militia.

EMILY BOURKE: Waleed Ali, a prominent commentator on Islamic affairs based in Melbourne says the
motive may have been there but not necessarily the means to follow through with an attack.

WALEED ALI: The mere fact that you have them, for example, seeking a ruling to justify intentions
doesn't immediately signal that they were in a position to carry out any kind of attack. It may
well have been some kind of morbid fantasy that they were carrying, it may have been something more
serious, something more imminent. And they only way we'll know I guess is when more information
comes to light.

EMILY BOURKE: There are fears of a backlash against Somalis and other Muslims living in Australia
following this morning's raids.

The commissioner of Victoria Police Simon Overland has moved to assuage any concerns that might
arise in the broader Islamic community.

SIMON OVERLAND: We understand that the overwhelming and vast majority of people of Islamic faith
are not terrorists. They do not support terrorism, they have successfully integrated into our
community, we work very collaboratively and very effectively with them and will continue to do so.

We will obviously be looking to talk to key community members throughout the day to reassure them
of our continuing support to provide what advice we can to them.

EMILY BOURKE: But his comments may do little to deal with the reasons why some Muslims turn to
extreme interpretations of Islam and indeed terrorism.

Waleed Ali says the issue of alienation is ever present.

WALEED ALI: The conventional wisdom at the moment among people who are looking at home-grown
terrorism and radicalisation is that probably the key factor is alienation. I'm not convinced that
what we're witnessing is representative of some kind of broader trend in society among Lebanese or
Somali youth.

Certainly in the Somali community you do have a community that, well, to a fair proportion is
recently arrived from overseas perhaps as refugees and that brings with it teething problems, but
those teething problems don't necessarily lead directly to radicalism, or radicalisation.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Waleed Ali from the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Monash University,
ending Emily Bourke's report.