Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Out of Africa, a new terrorism threat dawns

It was SO kind of John Howard to let all those African refugees into Australia

The global reach of Islamic terrorism has been grimly underlined by news that an extremist movement from a failed African nation has served as the inspiration for a group of men in the suburbs of Melbourne to hatch a plan to kill innocent Australians. The extraordinary plot, revealed exclusively by The Australian today, shows how easily the toxic philosophies of militant Islam can infect the minds of those who are susceptible to its call, wherever in the world they may be.

In this case, it was a nondescript group of Melbourne labourers and taxi drivers, of Somali and Lebanese descent, who were seduced by the lure of the violent Somali extremist group al-Shabaab. They were attracted to the group despite apparently having little understanding of Somali politics or theology.

Al-Shabaab (meaning The Youth, in Arabic) is a shadowy militant organisation that has risen to prominence only since the overthrow in late 2006 of the hardline Islamic government in Somalia by US-based forces from Christian Ethiopia. Western intelligence agencies are still learning about the fast-rising group, which they believe is closely aligned to al-Qa'ida. The US lists al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation, but Australia does not. This case is likely to change that.

Since early 2007, al-Shabaab has become the face of Islamic resistance to the Western-backed government in Mogadishu. The group's success is partly due to its ability to market itself to hardline Islamists as a movement that seeks to impose the rule of Islam around the world, rather than as a narrow group seeking to gain power in a country that has been dysfunctional for the past 17 years. Sourcing money and arms from nearby Eritrea, al-Shabaab has signed up thousands of jihadist recruits in the past two years. Its followers shun alcohol, cigarettes, music and videos, choosing an austere, violent interpretation of Islam. The group imposes strict sharia law and has carried out beheadings of its enemies, amputations of the limbs of thieves and the stoning of women accused of adultery.

What also disturbs Western intelligence agencies is that the group has been remarkably successful in recruiting foreign fighters, who see its struggle in terms of global jihad. In Melbourne, several of those suspected of providing support to al-Shabaab are Lebanese.

In the US, the FBI has been alarmed by the fact that 20 former Somali refugees who are now American citizens have recently been lured back to their homeland to join the jihadist struggle. This represents the largest group of American citizens suspected of joining an extremist movement affiliated with al-Qa'ida and it is clearly a trend Australian security authorities do not want to see repeated here. Last October, one of the US recruits, Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up in Somalia, becoming the first known American suicide bomber.

Al-Shabaab now controls most of southern Somalia and chunks of the capital, Mogadishu. In recent months the group has led a renewed push to topple the government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, leading an assault which has killed more than 300 people. The group has close links with Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a suspected member of al-Qa'ida and an architect of the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa.


Background to the above article

FOUR men have been arrested and more are still being questioned over an alleged plot to launch a suicide shootout attack at an Australian Army base. A 25-year-old man has been charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act and is expected to appear in court shortly. Police now say a 33-year-old man already in custody is also being interviewed.

The 25-year-old man was arrested along with a 26-year-old man, another 25-year-old and a 22-year-old man when 400 federal and state police executed 19 search warrants in several suburbs across Melbourne at 4.30am AEST.

AFP Acting Commissioner Tony Negus said authorities would allege the men were "planning to carry out a suicide terror attack involving an armed assault with automatic weapons ... a sustained attack on military personnel until they themselves were killed". "We've disrupted an alleged terror attack that could have claimed many lives."


National Party leader targets Labor government on 'ridiculous' Warmist laws

BUSINESS groups and the Coalition have leapt on evidence of internal Labor unease over the potential of Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme to wipe out jobs in resources and energy. Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said yesterday he was not surprised at dissent expressed by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal over the emissions scheme, because it would be "a job-destroying employment termination scheme".

The Australian revealed yesterday that Mr Roozendaal had written to federal Treasurer Wayne Swan in February to warn that the ETS could lead to "extreme losses" in the electricity and coal industries. Ms Bligh made similar comments in a letter last month to Assistant Climate Change Minister Greg Combet. "Both these people were at the Labor Party conference just a couple of days ago sitting alongside the culprits trying to introduce this ridiculous scheme," Senator Joyce said.

"Why was it that neither Mr Roozendaal nor Ms Bligh thought it necessary to bring this up at the premier Labor Party event designed to ventilate issues of public concern, but both are willing to express their concerns to the nation's newspapers? "It is completely irresponsible, in the middle of a global financial crisis, to be going forward with a scheme which will cut a swath of economic devastation through our nation."

The Senate is due to vote on the ETS next week, with Malcolm Turnbull insisting the Coalition will reject the scheme unless there are major changes.

Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday rejected Mr Roozendaal's concerns that the ETS could devastate electricity companies. She said there would be no change to the federal government's compensation package for the power sector. "Nearly $4 billion to the electricity sector -- we think that is a reasonable amount of assistance," she said. "It is not unknown in this debate for electricity owners to seek additional compensation from the government."

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief Brendan Lyon said Mr Roozendaal was right to point to the problem of investors fleeing from the carbon-intensive, coal-fired electricity generation sector if it were undermined by the ETS. "Between 2006 and 2020, demand will surge," Mr Lyon said. "That means we need to build this capacity through renewables, but also through traditional baseload power stations. "This uncertainty (over the ETS) is already being felt, with several energy generators expressing concern over their ability to refinance existing debt facilities," he said. "This has already seen the cancellation of maintenance programs, increasing the risk of major network failures."


Billions wasted and lives needlessly lost in Australia's public health care system

KEVIN Rudd's hand-picked health reform adviser has warned that Australia is wasting much of the $94 billion it spends each year on health services and will not be able to afford even the current, flawed system without major reforms...

The commission, set up early last year to help redesign Australia's health system, will warn that healthcare services, already under strain, will be swamped by the rising tide of chronic illness, an ageing population and costly new health technologies.

The commission urges governments to build stand-alone elective surgery hospitals and set new performance benchmarks requiring most operations to be performed within three months and emergency patients to get treatment within minutes. It also urges the creation of a Denticare scheme, paid for by a 0.75 of a percentage point increase in the Mecicare levy.

The commission's final report cites figures indicating Australians are forgoing two years of life because of waste and duplication in the health system. Errors are also taking a human toll. "The number of adverse events each year (is) equivalent to 13 jumbo jets crashing and killing all 350 passengers on board," it says.

Australia could save $1bn in healthcare costs by preventing just half of these mistakes. Better care in the community, through general practice, community health centres and other frontline services, would also eliminate the need for 700,000 hospital admissions a year.

The current health system is "unlikely to be sustainable without reform", the 10-member commission argues.


Dotty Dearden again

Woman ordered to pay $40,000 compensation for stabbing de facto over sex harassment. Judge Dearden regularly gives real crime a slap on the wrist but now hits hard at amply defensible behaviour

A NORTH Queensland woman has been ordered to pay more than $40,000 in compensation for stabbing her de facto husband with a 33cm long knife after he repeatedly hounded her for sex.

Beenleigh District Court Judge Ian Dearden ordered Vena Dawn Bee pay John Charles Logan criminal compensation for wounding him to the chest and upper left leg at their Mareeba home, 60km southwest of Cairns, on January 26, 2006.

Bee pleaded guilty to one count of grievous bodily harm at the Mt Isa District Court, before Judge Dearden, on July 27, 2007, and was sentenced to three years jail with a parole release date of January 26 last year.

In awarding Logan compensation, Judge Dearden said the knife attack was triggered after an argument erupted when Logan made repeated and unwanted advances on Bee for sex. "The request for sex was refused because (Bee) was tired and wanted to go to sleep," Judge Dearden said in his written findings published this week. "There was a repeat of that request on at least one occasion. "(Logan) then began swearing at (Bee) and then suggested that he would have intercourse with someone else."

Judge Dearden said the couple continued to argue and it escalated to a point that saw Bee pull out a knife and swing it at Logan, causing a small cut to his ear. "After that first cut, (Logan) said words to the effect, 'If you are going to stab (me) make it a good job'." he said. "Logan then) lay down and (Bee) stabbed (Logan) in the chest and the left upper leg." The court was told the knife was 33cm long, had no handle and penetrated Logan and "passed in and out of his heart."

Logan originally told police an unknown male had stabbed him, but later told them the truth as to how he received his injuries. The court was told that when he was assessed at the Mareeba Hospital, Logan admitted to having consumed "four cartons of wine" and a "six pack of stubbies" before being stabbed.

Judge Dearden said it was clear both Logan and Bee were intoxicated at the time of the attack and that Logan had "dared" Bee to stab him. "(Logan) effectively dared (Bee) continue with her use of the knife against him," he said. "In the circumstances, though, I form the view that the award I have made should not be reduced because of (Logan's) role in the proceedings leading up to his stabbing."

Judge Dearden granted Logan $41,250 for the injuries, scarring and mental shock.


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