French terror suspect'plotted great attack' against Australia

22nd March 2004, Comments 0 comments

SYDNEY, March 22 (AFP) - French authorities have told Australia that a suspected terrorist now in a Parisian jail spent months here helping prepare an attack "of great size" on the country, The Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

SYDNEY, March 22 (AFP) - French authorities have told Australia that a suspected terrorist now in a Parisian jail spent months here helping prepare an attack "of great size" on the country, The Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

The suspect, Willie Brigitte, was deported from Australia to France in October and according to documents cited by the newspaper had links to the terrorist groups which carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the March 11 Madrid train bombings.

The dossier was reportedly drawn up by French anti-terror judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere as part of a request for judicial assistance from Australian authorities.

In it French investigators said Brigitte had worked with an "informal" terrorist cell operating out of a Sydney area with a big Muslim population and linked to the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET).

Among his tasks, Brigitte, 35, was supposed to help a Chechen explosives expert who was to sneak into the country last October during the rugby World Cup posing as a supporter of the Georgian team, the report said.

The Chechen, identified only as Abu Salah, was twice denied a visa by Australian authorities, it said.

Brigitte's main contacts in Sydney were a man know as Abu Hamza and the cleric of a western Sydney mosque who allegedly has links to Al-Qaeda figures in Europe and the US state of Virginia.

"Brigitte said that the Lashkar group based in Australia and created around Hamza was, with the assistance of this Chechen expert in explosives, ... to prepare a terrorist act of great size in Australia," the French dossier was quoted as saying.

It said potential targets for attack included a US electronic listening post at Pine Gap in central Australia, the country's only nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney and military bases in Sydney and the western city of Perth.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock declined to comment on the report or ongoing investigations of Brigitte's contacts here."I can't comment on the status of ongoing inquiries. I can't confirm or deny the status of them," he said.

"If we had evidence that people were recruiting for training for a terrorist organisation that would be a breach of the law and it would be dealt with, assuming we had appropriate evidence," he said on national radio.

"Those matters would be investigated by the Australian Federal Police."The French report surfaced as Australia began on Monday a major, five-day counter-terrorism exercise involving military, police and government agencies in several states.

The maneuvers center on the mock takeover by armed terrorists of an oil rig off Australia's north coast and will involve Prime Minister John Howard calling a meeting of his top security advisors to coordinate a response to the attack.

Following the Madrid bombing, a group claimed to have carried out the attack for the Al-Qaeda network named Australia as among US allies now topping the network's target list.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

 

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