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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 09:49 GMT
Shot Australian suspect charged
digitally altered video grab from the New South Wales Police, showing one of the suspects being led into a cell, 8 Nov 2005
At least 17 people have been arrested as a result of the raids
An Australian man injured during a shoot-out with police during anti-terrorism raids on Tuesday has been charged with attempted murder.

The man, named by local media as Omar Baladjam, is recovering from a gunshot wound in a Sydney hospital.

He has also been charged with planning a terrorist attack, along with seven others detained in the Sydney raids.

A further nine people were arrested in raids in Melbourne, charged with membership of a terrorist group.

Of the 17 detainees, some had roots in Asia and the Middle East, but at least six were apparently born in Australia or naturalised Australian citizens.

Since Tuesday's co-ordinated operation, police have continued to follow up further clues, searching another Sydney house on Wednesday morning.

A home in the Revesby district was searched and a woman and two children left with police, neighbours said.

'Extremely alarming'

In Melbourne, the nine men arrested on Tuesday have been accused of being members of a terrorist organisation that was plotting a jihad [holy war] in Australia.

Two of the men - Abdullah Merthi and Hany Taha - applied for bail on Wednesday, but Melbourne Magistrates Court denied the request.

AUSTRALIA RAIDS
SYDNEY: Eight men charged for planning a terrorist act
Omar Baladjam also charged with attempted murder for firing at police
At least two suspects alleged to have had militant training in Pakistan
MELBOURNE: Nine arrested on charges of being members of a terrorist group
Abu Bakr alleged to be overall leader
All detainees have names suggesting Middle Eastern origin, apart from Shane Kent

Magistrate Reg Marron said the allegations against the group - including a belief, according to prosecutors, that it was acceptable to kill innocent people - were "extremely alarming".

Those arrested in Melbourne include Abu Bakr, an outspoken Algerian-Australian cleric alleged to be the leader of both the Sydney and Melbourne groups, who has in the past praised Osama Bin Laden as "a great man".

Lawyers for the men deny they were involved in terrorism, and one defence attorney, Rob Stary, emphasised that none of his clients had actually been charged with planning any attack.

In Sydney, the men arrested during the raids are not expected in court until Friday.

But as Omar Balajdam's health stabilised after a gunshot wound to the neck, police charged the 28-year-old with the attempted murder of two officers.

ABU BAKR

The bit-part actor - who once reportedly had a small role in the Australian soap opera Home and Away - has also been charged with assault and several firearms offences.

Sydney police said they seized firearms, "unidentified substances" and computers in the raids, and said they had foiled "the final stages of a large-scale terrorist attack".

But Adam Houda, a lawyer representing at least one of the suspects in Sydney, said the operation was a "scandalous political prosecution".

Tougher laws

Tuesday's police operation, involving 500 officers and raids on 23 houses, came less than a week after Australia's anti-terror laws were amended to widen police powers.

Prime Minister John Howard said the arrests vindicated the decision to rush through the amendments.

But Muslim and civil rights leaders have continued to question the need for tougher laws - especially a new raft of legislation which the government is still debating.

"My question is whether we need the legislation, because these arrests have taken place under the existing laws, and it appears the current laws are working effectively," the president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ameer Ali, told local radio.

Mr Howard, anxious to allay fears of Australia's Muslim community - which makes up 1.5% of the population - assured them that they would not become the specific target of any new laws.

"There is nothing in our laws, nor will there be anything in our laws, that targets an individual group," he told local radio.

There has never been a major terrorist attack on Australian soil, although 88 Australians died in the 2002 Bali bombings, and Australia's embassy in Indonesia was bombed in 2004.


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SEE ALSO:
Australia arrests stir terror debate
08 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Australia raids
08 Nov 05 |  In Pictures
Profile: Abu Bakr
08 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia plans army terror role
07 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia terror bill introduced
03 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia warned of terror threat
02 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Bali marks 2002 bomb anniversary
12 Oct 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia relives Bali nightmare
06 Oct 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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