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Australian Nuclear Reactor Revealed as Possible Terrorism Target


Australian police documents indicate that three of the 18 terrorist suspects arrested last week in a major security sweep had been stopped outside the country's only nuclear power plant.

Monday here in Sydney, Australians got their first idea what the latest group of arrested terrorist suspects may have been plotting.

A police fact sheet released on the 18 suspects in custody shows that at least three of them may have been casing the Lucas Heights nuclear facility on the outskirts of Sydney. In documents, police say the men were stopped and questioned near the plant last December.

Authorities also alleged that the suspects had been trying to stockpile large quantities of chemicals and had attended military-style training camps in the remote Australian outback.

The men - all Muslims - were detained in raids in Sydney and Melbourne last week and have been charged with planning a terrorist attack.

Defense lawyers insist the case against their clients is weak and biased.

The Australian government has been trying to dispel fears that the Muslim community is being unfairly targeted. In a speech this weekend, Prime Minister John Howard said the fight against terrorism should not be seen as an attack upon Islam. But Mr. Howard did warn that the Islamic community has a responsibility to report "perverted and fanatical" elements within its ranks to the police.

Other senior government figures, including the Finance Minister Peter Costello, believe that anyone who dislikes Australia's style of Western democracy should think about leaving.

"People who are dual citizens, if they're not happy with Australia might be better for them to live in the country where they're also a citizen," said Mr. Costello. "See it's a funny thing, isn't it, to say well I want to live in this country but I'm just opposed to everything that happens or I'm opposed to its system of government. Maybe the problem doesn't lie with the country, maybe it lies with the individual."

There are about 300,000 Muslims in Australia. Islamic leaders have said that racism towards them has been increasing in recent years.

Australia has never suffered a terrorist attack on its soil, but its citizens have been targeted abroad.

These latest terrorist arrests come as the government is pushing new controversial legislation to make it easier for the police to monitor, search and detain suspects.