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Australia Holds Counter-Terrorism Drills - 2003-05-28

A massive exercise is under way to test Australia's ability to cope with terrorism attacks. The drill follows a series of terrorism attacks around the world, including last year's bombing in Bali that killed dozens of Australians.

A series of mock attacks in the capital, Canberra, will see just how prepared the emergency services, the army and the police are for a major attack. Other drills are taking place in Sydney, where the activity centers on a navy base in the harbor.

Bomb squad officers will be taking part as well as members of an elite commando unit. They have been tested with a simulated car bomb attack outside an office building in Sydney.

Some security analysts in the country have said Australia is not prepared to cope with a serious terrorist attack.

The prime minister of New South Wales state, Bob Carr, thinks the exercise shows Australia could cope with a major attack, similar to the September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. "Obviously, it would test us but our emergency services would be as well equipped as those in New York and we've established that by detailed debriefings by the fire brigade in New York," he says. "Obviously, a large-scale terrorist attack would test our resources, but I believe we're as well equipped as any jurisdiction."

Similar exercises were held here in Sydney before the Olympic Games three years ago. These new drills are taking place against a very different backdrop.

A high-level review of Australia's security and counter-terrorism arrangements began after the September 2001 attacks. The bomb attack on the Indonesian island of Bali last year, in which almost 90 Australians died, also has made many people in the country nervous.

The Australian government, which sent two thousand troops to fight in Iraq, acknowledges the country's profile as a potential target has risen.