You can't hide: net closing on new suspects Print E-mail
Monday, 14 November 2005


A group of Sydney men with links to the terrorism suspects arrested in raids last week have been placed under 24-hour surveillance amid fears that members of the alleged cell remain at large.


At the same time, the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, has hailed the discovery in Sydney of a vehicle - containing chemicals, documents and digging equipment - as a "significant" breakthrough in the investigation.


Homes, businesses and mosques in Sydney's south-west are under constant watch by security agencies, all against a backdrop of simmering resentment among some Muslims who say they are being unfairly targeted.


The NSW Police Minister, Carl Scully, told the Herald yesterday: "There are a number of persons of interest who will be the subject of continuing monitoring, both for intelligence and the gathering of possible evidence. They want to be aware that if they so much as think of planning something, we will be on to them."


Mr Scully described the people under surveillance as having links to the "main group of suspects" but added "there was not enough evidence to arrest them".


Both federal and state police sources say more arrests could flow in coming days and weeks.


But the federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, said he remained concerned about a possible terrorist act. "My greatest fear is what we may not have been able to discover," he told Channel Nine. "It's quite clear to me, if there are groups of people that you've been able to identify and are of concern, it is quite possible there may be others."


In Thailand, Mr Keelty said "we believe we have disrupted the activities" and finding the burnt-out four-wheel-drive in Bankstown last Thursday was important as authorities sought "corroboration of all the facts before the court". Mr Ruddock did not deny reports that a "supergrass" - a man who had trained with al-Qaeda - had given police much of the information on the alleged terrorist cell. The man reportedly fears for his life after last week's arrest of 18 men in Sydney and Melbourne.


Despite some concerns about witness identification, Mr Keelty said federal police would not oppose the release of the prosecution statement of facts against the Sydney suspects in court this morning, after media were gagged from reporting it on Friday.


"There are good people who have reported the issue to us and they should be afforded protection and confidentiality," he said. It was "common sense" not to resist the magistrate's ruling to release the statement. He hoped "it does not compromise anything we have in place".


The Prime Minister talked about terrorism with US President George Bush during a 30-minute phone call at the weekend. John Howard also called again for Australian Muslims to do more to report people spouting "perverted, fanatical" views.


The president of the Federation of Islamic Councils, Ameer Ali, said he understood Mr Howard's sentiments but cautioned that Muslims could not be a "police force". Waleed Kadous, convener of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network, said

ASIO inquiries had become regular, and sometimes resented.


At a dinner last night for an Islamic delegation from Malaysia Keyser Trad said Muslims had suffered a backlash since the arrests. "Young people don't know how to deal with their identity anymore because of the reporting of these events. There is a savage element in the media out there."


Mr Scully announced a review of NSW counter-terrorism resources to boost intelligence, forensics, bomb detection and tactical response. The full-time police counter-terrorism squad of 75 officers was likely to grow.


"One year ago, Jordanian authorities disrupted a terror cell," Mr Scully said. "One year later and there were three significant terrorist strikes in one night. There is a lesson for us. That could happen here. It calls for more vigilance and enhanced resources."


Tom Allard and Connie Levett, Phuket

Sydney Morning Herald,14 November 2005


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