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Australia Raids Homes of Suspected Jemaah Islamiah Members - 2002-10-30

Australian police and security agents have raided homes of suspected members of the outlawed militant organization Jemaah Islamiah. The government says the group is suspected of taking part in the bomb attack in Bali earlier this month that killed almost 200 people.

Heavily armed agents carried out a five-hour raid in Sydney on the home of a man suspected of having close ties with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The man was not arrested, but documents and computers were seized.

The man's lawyer, Stephen Hopper, says his client has no links to any terrorist organization, although he did once attend a lecture given by a suspected JI leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, several years ago. Mr. Hopper says the security forces, who were armed with shotguns, a sledgehammer and pistols, were heavy-handed in the raid.

Australia's Attorney General Daryl Williams confirmed police are conducting raids as part of an investigation into the possible presence of Jemaah Islamiyah in Australia. "The operation is directed only at individuals who may have some knowledge of JI in Australia," he stressed. "I want to emphasize that it is not directed at the Islamic community or any particular community group."

In another raid early Wednesday, heavily armed police stormed the home of an Indonesian family in Perth. It is unclear if any arrests have been made in that raid. Mr. Williams has confirmed the raid also was part of the investigation into JI.

Late last week, the Australian government officially listed Jemaah Islamiyah as a terrorist organization. The move allows the authorities to prosecute group members or supporters under new legislation created after the attacks in New York and Washington last year. The United Nations and the United States also list the group as a terrorist organization.

Jemaah Islamiyah is suspected of being involved in the bombing of a nightclub on the Indonesian island of Bali on October 12. Almost 200 people were killed in the blast and about 90 Australian tourists are among the dead and missing. Several governments in Southeast Asia accuse the group of plotting a series of terrorist attacks over the past few years.