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Australian PM Defends Raid on Migrant Indonesian Muslims - 2002-11-01

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has defended security raids on homes of migrant Indonesian Muslims. He says the action is part of investigations into those with possible links to Jemaah Islamiyah, the group suspected in a Bali nightclub bombing. Jakarta has criticized the raids as heavy handed.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard reacted to the criticism on Friday, saying that raids were in the nation's interest. He said that terrorist "sleeper cells" may exist in Australia.

Indonesian Vice President Hamzah Haz said raids on Indonesian homes in Australia could hurt Jakarta's relations with Canberra. He adds that Australia should have informed the Indonesian government in advance.

Speaking on Melbourne's Southern Cross Radio, Mr. Howard defended the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, also known as ASIO. "When you are carrying out investigations and when you have a warrant to do it you are entitled to anticipate that you could meet hostility, you could meet resistance. I defend everything ASIO has done," he said.

He denied allegations that the Indonesian community and Muslims in general are being targeted, saying that the investigations focus on a number of individuals.

In some cases, residents of raided homes complained that security forces used sledgehammers to break down doors. Although no arrests were made, authorities seized a number of items including computers.

The raids follow reports that a suspected terrorist group, Jemaah Isalmiyah, is present in Australia. The Southeast Asian group is suspected of being involved in last month's bomb attack on a tourist nightspot on the Indonesian island of Bali. At least 180 people died in the bombing, about half of them were Australians.