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Attorney-General examines claims that Indonesian suicide bombers have been sent to countries that sympathise with Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah.

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Friday 4 August 2006

Attorney-General examines claims that Indonesian suicide bombers have been sent to countries that sympathise with Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah


MARK COLVIN: The Australian Federal Police say they have no information to support claims that a radical group in Indonesia has sent hundreds of suicide bombers to countries that appear to sympathise with Israel in its war against Hezbollah. 


The head of the Asian Muslim Youth Movement claims that the suicide bombers have been sent to countries such as Britain, the United States and possibly Australia. 


The former senior government security adviser Allan Behm doesn't believe it's a credible threat. 


But Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, says the claim requires close and detailed investigation. 


Lynn Bell reports. 


LYNN BELL: The Asian Muslim Youth Movement is based in Jakarta. 


The head of the group, Suaib Bidu, claims the group has sent 217 suicide bombers to nations that appear to support Israel's attacks on Hezbollah in Lebanon, and that could include Australia. 


An expert on radical Islam, Doctor Zachary Abuza from the Simmons College in Boston, says the threat should be taken seriously. 


ZACHARY ABUZA: They have some potential to hit the West, but they would have to be received and brought into pre-existing cells before I think they really had an operational capability to hurt any of the Western countries. 


LYNN BELL: But counter-terrorism expert Clive Williams, from the Australian National University, says the latest threat lacks credibility. 


Former senior government adviser on security and counter terrorism, Allan Behm, agrees. 


ALLAN BEHM: I don't really think it's a credible threat. It would seem to me that there's a high measure of braggadocio here, that evidently the developments in the Middle East would certainly have stimulated a measure of concern and indeed anger on the part of young Muslims throughout South East Asia.  


But whether they're able to put together hundreds of people to go off and become kind of latter day freedom fighters, I think is very doubtful. 


LYNN BELL: Allan Behm says he doesn't believe the Federal Government should take any extra precautionary measures at this time. 


He also doubts the claim that the suicide bombers are being funded by two unidentified Australian-Indonesian businessmen. 


ALLAN BEHM: I really don't know, I found that a bit difficult to swallow, I might say. If only because an Australian-Indonesian businessman, one assumes, is a businessman who's doing business in Indonesia and Australia, and were he to be supplying funds to a terrorist organisation, that person would become subject to our law if ever they put their foot into Australia. 


So I just find this a little bit of a long bow. Certainly there is some money around, we can see that, but the amounts of money that seem to be applied to these organisations don't, to me at least, seem to be terribly high. 


LYNN BELL: Labor's Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Kevin Rudd, says he respects the views of Dr Zachary Abuza, who has studied terrorist movements in South East Asia for many years. 


And as Dr Abuza has described the threat as a serious development, Mr Rudd says it should be carefully considered. 


KEVIN RUDD: I think this requires very close and detailed examination. The bottom line is this - three and a half years after the Bali bombings, Jemaah Islamiah and other terrorist organisations are alive and well in South East Asia. 


LYNN BELL: The Federal Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, says he won't comment on any specific security assessment, but the claims are being examined. 


PHILIP RUDDOCK: I'm always alarmed at the potential for harm to Australians. And we have an alert, which is at medium, which makes it clear that a terrorist attack in Australia is feasible, but we have no specific intelligence in relation to where or when such an attack might occur. 


So the severity of that alert should be well understood by the broader Australian community. 


LYNN BELL: The Australian Federal Police say they work closely with international forces on all terrorism matters, but they have no specific information to support the validity of the claims made today.