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International counter-terrorism exercise.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS THE HON ALEXANDER DOWNER MP

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL

NEWS RELEASE

Media Contact:

Chris Kenny (Mr Downer) (02) 6277 7500/ 0419 206 890

Sascha Meldrum (Senator Hill) (02) 6277 7300/ 0409 034 241

4 September 2003

INTERNATIONAL COUNTER-TERRORISM EXERCISE

Australia’s key international counter-terrorism response group will hold an exercise next week to test the nation’s readiness to deal with a terrorist incident overseas involving Australians or Australian interests.

Defence Minister Robert Hill said the exercise will gauge the effectiveness of procedures and policies put in place by the Counter-Terrorism Overseas Response Group.

Senator Hill said the exercise scenario envisages the deployment of Australian tactical assets, supported by New Zealand tactical assets, in order to respond to an official request from a fictitious third country’s government for assistance with the resolution of an overseas terrorist incident involving Australian and/or New Zealand hostages.

“The mock terrorist incident will involve a special recovery operation of Australians and New Zealanders who have been taken hostage in a fictitious country,” Senator Hill said.

“These types of bilateral exercises are an important part of our Special Forces training and are also good to put Government interdepartmental communications and responses to the test.”

The Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces will conduct a counter-terrorism military exercise concurrently with the Response Group exercise from 8-12 September at Defence Force bases in New Zealand.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said Australia and New Zealand were coordinating their efforts to fight the scourge of terrorism.

“Holding the exercise in New Zealand continues a series of exercises in our respective countries, reflecting our close relationship and cooperation on a broad range of issues,” Mr Downer said.

CTORG was established in 1987 and draws on the expertise of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Defence, Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Attorney-General’s as well as ASIO and the Australian Federal Police.