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Monday, 9 July 2007

Jemaah Islamiah plans terror attacks:
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer

Australians could be the target of imminent terrorist attacks in Indonesia, including Bali, the Federal Government has warned in a revamped travel alert.

Right: Alexander Downer. [File]

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, numerous attacks are being planned against Westerners, despite the recent arrests of "high-level operatives" of Jemaah Islamiah.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the department had been receiving reports for some time about possible attacks from groups associated with JI, which is linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda. "People should be awake to that," he said, despite "a sense in the community" having taken hold that the terrorist threat in the region had dissipated.

"The reason we've reissued the travel advisory is that, in the context of a number of high-profile arrests in recent times in Indonesia, we still nevertheless remain very concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks and those terrorist attacks could be imminent," he said.

"It can't be ruled out."

The warning does not change the overall level of threat to Australians.

"We're not predicting an attack at a particular location," Mr Downer said. "We're just reminding people that terrorist attacks are possible in Indonesia."

The warning came as Prime Minister John Howard announced for Australia what he billed as the world's best border-security arrangements, set to take effect ahead of both the Sydney meeting of Asia-Pacific heads of government and the federal election.

The new deal, which involves better data matching and more extensive background checks, was unveiled in the wake of the probe of the links of foreign-trained doctors in Australia to the recent failed terrorist attacks in Britain. The border-security initiative was bolstered by a pledge from Attorney-General Philip Ruddock to consider amending anti-terrorist legislation to extend the detention and questioning time of suspects, if he received advice from police or security services that it was warranted.

The department's warning on Indonesia specified Western targets.

"We continue to receive reports indicating that terrorists are planning attacks against Western interests, against a range of targets, including places frequented by foreigners," it said.

"If you are in Indonesia, including Bali, and are concerned for your safety, you should consider departing. If you do decide to travel to Indonesia, including Bali, you should exercise extreme caution."

Attacks could take place at any time and could be imminent. The warning referred to the Bali and Jakarta bombings of 2002, 2004 and 2005 and noted "these areas are a priority target for terrorists".

Eighty-eight Australians were killed in the 2002 bombings, for which nine terrorists have been found guilty.

Bagel: I wonder how many months it will be before:

"John Howard announced for Australia what he billed as the world's best border-security arrangements"
becomes a pie slapped in John Howards face. Probably enough time for us all to duck under our Fridge Magnets.

Cross posted at Aussie Bagel
The Canberra Times: JI plans terror attacks: Downer