11/08/2005

Police in Australia arrest 15 terror suspects, say they foiled attack

The Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia- Police in Australia arrested 15 terror suspects in a string of raids in the early hours of Tuesday and said they had foiled a major terror attack.

"I'm satisfied that we have disrupted what I would regard as the final stages of a large scale terrorist attack ... here in Australia," New South Wales Police Commissioner Ken Moroney told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Moroney said 400 officers, including federal and state police, were involved in raids in Sydney that captured six men while nine more suspects were picked up in the southern city of Melbourne.

Police declined to give details of the likely target of the attack, but Victoria state police chief Christine Nixon said that next year's Commonwealth Games, to be held in Melbourne, were not a target.

"It's the largest operation of counterterrorism that's ever been conducted in this country and its taken us a long period of time," Nixon told the ABC.

Melbourne lawyer Rob Stary said he represented eight people arrested in the city, most of whom he said had been charged with being members of a banned organizations.

The suspects were expected to appear in courts in Sydney and Melbourne later Tuesday.

Australia has never been hit by a major terror attack, but its citizens have repeatedly been targeted overseas, particularly in neighboring Indonesia.

Opponents say Prime Minister John Howard's strong support for the U.S.-led strikes on Iraq and decision to send troops there and to Afghanistan have made it inevitable Australia will be attacked.

Last year, the country's embassy in Jakarta was badly damaged by a suicide bomber and dozens of Australians were killed in bombings in 2002 and last month on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

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