11 September 2006

1004) Terrorism History on Australian Soil

It was somewhat disturbing to hear someone as eminent as Attorney-General Philip Ruddock claim on television on Monday that there has never been a terrorist attack on Australian soil. The reality is there have been many terrorism incidents, although the number of deaths is quite low. . .

The first recorded act of terrorism in Australia was the shooting in 1868 of the visiting Duke of Edinburgh at Clontarf beach in Sydney.

This caused great embarrassment, as he was the first royal visitor to NSW.

The perpetrator, Henry James O'Farrell, was an Irishman from Victoria and an alleged Fenian (predecessor organisation to the Irish Republican Army).

This incident led to acrimonious exchanges between the NSW and Victoria governments and, some claim, to today's adversarial relationship between NSW and Victoria.

Fortunately, the Duke of Edinburgh did not die and Australia has been relatively fortunate in the number of deaths attributable to politically motivated violence (PMV). (This includes terrorism. The term "politically" also embraces "ideologically", "sociologically" and "religiously" motivated violence.) The bloodiest incident occurred during World War I, in January 1915, when two Muslims, Mulla Abdullah and Gool Mahomed, opened fire on a picnic train near the town of Broken Hill in NSW.

They were members of a religious sect headed by the Sultan of Turkey who apparently objected to Australia's military operations against Turkey. Six died, including the two attackers.

There is little data about the period 1915 to the 1960s, although there were undoubtedly violent incidents that were not recorded as politically motivated.

During the 1960s and '70s, there were regular bombings and firebombings involving the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood (HRB) and members of the Serbian community - who in turn were backed by the Yugoslav intelligence service. The HRB was a terrorist organisation formed in Australia in the early 1960s by Croatian immigrants to Australia. It was responsible for more than 120 terrorist acts in Australia and Europe. Surprisingly, there were no resultant deaths in Australia.

In 1966, the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Arthur Calwell, was shot in his car at Mosman, Sydney, by Peter Kocan, shortly after an anti- Vietnam conscription meeting at the Town Hall. Calwell's lower face was cut by flying glass, but he was not otherwise injured.

In February 1978, the next most significant incident in terms of loss of life occurred outside the Hilton Hotel in Sydney. It has generally been believed that members of Ananda Marga were responsible for an improvised explosive device that detonated in a garbage truck, killing a policeman, Constable Paul Burmistriw, and two garbage collectors, William Favell and Alec Carter.

A Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting was taking place at the hotel at the time.

The suggested intent of the attackers was to kill Indian Prime Minister Morarji Ranchhodji Desai, whose government's policies were detrimental to Ananda Marga.

There are several books about this incident, such as Tom Molomby's Spies, Bombs and The Path of Bliss, but there has never been any certainty as to who was responsible.

If members of Ananda Marga were responsible, they could have been acting without the sanction of the organisation.

Conspiracy theorists make the unlikely claim that Special Branch or ASIO were responsible in an attempt to gain additional resources.

In June 1980, David Opas, a Parramatta family court judge, was shot dead at the front door of his Woollahra, Sydney, home by a person or persons unknown.

Then in December 1980, two members of the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide shot and killed Sarik Arijak, the Turkish Consul-General, and his bodyguard, Engin Sever, at Dover Heights in Sydney.

The perpetrators were believed to have flown into Australia to undertake the operation with local support, and left after the attack. No-one was ever prosecuted.

In December 1982, two members of the Palestinian group, 15 May, flew in to Sydney and with local support bombed the Israeli Consulate-General in Sydney and the Jewish Hakoah Club at Bondi. No one was killed. The police case against the local supporters fell apart when the key witness left the country.

In July 1984, Pearl Watson, the wife of a Parramatta Family Court judge, Ray Watson, was killed by an improvised explosive device at their Sydney home.

In November 1986, the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide struck again. This time, two members resident in Sydney attempted to bomb the Turkish Consulate in Caroline Street, South Yarra, in Melbourne. The only person killed was Hagop Levonian, one of the bombers. Levon Demirian, the other bomber, was arrested as he was about to leave the country for Lebanon. He served 10 years in jail.

In 1989, David Locke, a member of the right-wing Australian Nationalist Movement in Perth, was killed by two other members of the group, who suspected him of being an ASIO or police informer.

In 1990, David Noble, a member of the right-wing group National Action was murdered with an axe by two other members of the group after a party to celebrate Hitler's birthday.

In April 1991, unknown assailants shot dead the chairman of the Coptic Human Rights Commission, Dr Makeen Morcos, in Sydney, after he gave a radio talk criticising Islamists and the Egyptian Government for harassing and murdering Coptic Christians in Egypt. It is thought that he was assassinated by agents of the Egyptian Government or one of the Islamist groups in Australia.

Another National Action member, Wayne Smith, was murdered in April 1991 in Sydney because of suspicions that he was an ASIO or police informant. This time, ASIO had a covert sound-activated microphone at the site and the recording of his murder was later used to convict an National Action member.

In 1993, the Reverend Doug Good, a pastor in Western Australia, was stabbed to death just before going to officiate at a marriage between a Christian man and an Iranian woman who had converted from Islam to Christianity.

Good's attacker, an Iranian Muslim, killed the pastor at his home, claiming he was defending himself from a homosexual advance.

In September 1994, John Newman, a Cabramatta politician, was shot in the chest and killed. Seven years later, a jury found a bitter political rival, former Fairfield city councillor Phuong Ngo, guilty of masterminding the murder.

In 1996, suspected Islamic extremist Mohammad Hassanein entered Australia with the possible intention of attacking, with local support, Jewish targets. There is some dispute as to whether Hassanein was a dangerous terrorist or simply a deluded individual.

The facts are that he did have past connections with an extremist group in Egypt, he did travel here on a false passport, and he was in Melbourne in the lead-up to a Jewish congress. As far as is known, he had no access to weapons or explosives. ASIO and the Australian Federal Police decided not to take any chances; he was arrested and deported.

In July 2001, anti-abortionist Peter James Knight shot and killed a security guard, Steven Rogers, at a Melbourne abortion clinic.

In October 2002, Dr Margaret Tobin, the South Australian Director of Mental Health, was shot four times in the back and killed in her Adelaide office building. A deregistered Sydney psychiatrist, Jean Eric Gassy, was found guilty of her murder. Dr Tobin had been involved in his removal from the medical register.

By my count, the current death toll for PMV incidents in Australia is at least 22 - 13 by shootings, five by improvised explosive devices and four by stabbing or unknown circumstances.There have been other well-known violent incidents in Australia, such as the murder of anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay in 1977 in Griffith, or the Russell Street police headquarters bombing in Melbourne in 1986, but the primary motivation in those cases was criminal rather than political.

A concern now is Islamist extremist "sleeper cells" in Australia that could one day be responsible for much more deadly attacks than those we have suffered in the past. This issue is complicated by the large numbers of people who are here illegally and who have disappeared into the general community. The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs estimates there are 60,000 people unaccounted for. If correct, this presents ASIO and other national security agencies with a near-impossible monitoring task, despite the good work they have done in the past. A further concern now is "cleanskin" (no police or security record) self-starter Islamist extremists, probably born or brought up in Australia, who may act with little or no outside support.

The most likely cause of death would be from multiple improvised explosive devices, similar to the bombings in Madrid, London and Mumbai. We could then easily end up with numbers of dead and injured far surpassing the total of all previous incidents in Australia.

Clive Williams is a Visiting Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU.

Canberra Times
Australia
September 9, 2006




Terror Trails On The Home Front 25 Sep, 2001

THE FIRST recorded act of terrorism in Australia was the shooting in 1868 of the visiting Duke of Edinburgh in Sydney. This caused great embarrassment, as it was the first royal visit to NSW. The perpetrator, Henry James O'Farrell, was an Irishman from Victoria and an alleged Fenian (a predecessor organisation to the IRA). This led to acrimonious exchanges between the NSW and Victorian governments and, some claim, to the traditional friction between NSW and Victoria.

The Duke did not die, and Australia has been relatively fortunate in the number of deaths attributable to politically motivated violence within Australia. The total is 16 - six in shootings, four by bombs, three by other members of the extremist groups that they were part of, and three murdered or assassinated by terrorists or a political rival.

The bloodiest incident occurred during World War I, in 1915, when two Muslims opened fire on a picnic train near Broken Hill. They were members of a religious sect headed by the Sultan of Turkey and they objected to Australia's military operations against Turkey. Six died, including the two attackers. During the 1960s and '70s there were bombings and firebombings involving the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood and the Yugoslav intelligence service in Australia. There were no deaths from these incidents.

In 1978, the next most significant incident in terms of loss of life occurred when Ananda Marga placed a bomb in a garbage hopper at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney, killing a policeman, Constable Paul Burmistriw, and two garbage collectors, William Favell and Alec Carter. The claimed intent was to kill Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai, whose Government's policies were detrimental to Ananda Marga.

Then in 1980, two members of the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide killed Sarik Arijak, the Turkish Consul General and his bodyguard, Engin Sever, at Dover Heights in Sydney. The perpetrators were believed to have flown to Australia to undertake the operation with local support, and left after the attack. No-one was ever prosecuted.

In 1982, two members of the Palestinian group 15 May flew in to Sydney and with local support bombed the Israeli consulate in Sydney and the Jewish Hakoah club at Bondi. No-one was killed. The police case against the local supporters fell apart when the key witness left the country.

In 1986, the same group struck again. This time two members resident in Sydney attempted to bomb the Turkish Consulate in South Yarra, in Melbourne. The only person killed was Hagop Levonian, one of the bombers. Levon Demirian, the other bomber, was arrested due to ASIO information, as he was about to leave the country for Lebanon. He served 10 years in jail.

In 1989, David Locke, a member of the right-wing Australian Nationalist Movement (ANM) in Perth, was killed by two members of the group, who suspected him of being an ASIO or police informer.

In 1990, David Noble, a member of the right-wing group National Action (NA) was murdered with an axe by two members of the group after a party to celebrate Hitler's birthday. Another NA member, Wayne Smith, was murdered in 1991 in Sydney because of suspicions that he was an ASIO or police informant. This time ASIO had a voice-activated microphone at the site and the recording of his murder was later used to convict an NA member.

In 1994, persons unknown murdered John Newman, a Cabramatta politician at the instigation of a political rival from the Vietnamese community.

In 1996, suspected Islamic extremist Mohammad Hassanein entered Australia with the alleged intention of attacking Jewish targets with local support. There is some dispute as to whether Hassanein was a dangerous terrorist or simply a deluded individual.

The facts are that he did have connections with an extremist group in Egypt, he did travel here on a false passport, and he was in Melbourne at the same time as a major Jewish Congress. As far as is known, he had no access to weapons or explosives. ASIO and the Australian Federal Police decided not to take any chances, so he was arrested and deported

There have been other incidents that could be included, but the primary motivation in those cases - as in the murder of anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay in 1977 in Griffith - was criminal, rather than political.

The question now is whether there are sleeper cells in Australia that could one day be responsible for much more deadly attacks than those we have suffered in the past. Clearly there are in Australia, as there were in the US, large numbers of people who are here illegally and who have disappeared into the general community. There may be others who have been infiltrated into Australia among legal arrivals, and there are some individuals who are sympathetic to Osama bin Laden.

Some estimates place the number of illegals arriving with forged documents, or overstaying, at 10 times the boat arrivals - or more than 50,000 a year. No-one really knows. If correct, this presents ASIO and other agencies with a near-impossible monitoring task, despite the good work they have done in the past. At present it is far too easy to develop an identity here through obtaining a driver's license and other documentation, and to blend in. Perhaps, in the wake of the New York and Washington attacks, it is time to revisit the issue of a national identity card, which, with new technology, could contain unique biometric data.

The civil libertarians will not like it but the people that need to fear a system of greater individual accountability are illegal residents, fraudsters, and those trying to avoid tax obligations - not your average Australian.

There will probably never be a better opportunity to obtain public support for such a measure.

Clive Williams is a lecturer in Terrorism at the Australian National University

terrorism@austarmetro.com.


Melbourne Turkish consulate bombing


The Melbourne Turkish consulate bombing was an attempt to bomb the Turkish Consulate in South Yarra, in Melbourne, Australia, on 23 November 1986. A car bomb exploded in the basement parking lot, killing Hagop Levonian, one of the bombers.

In 1986 the Turkish Consulate in Caroline St, South Yarra, was devastated by a car bomb. The blast occurred at 2.16 a.m., Melbourne time. One man, Hagob Levonian, was killed in the blast which went off prematurely as he and an accomplice, Levon Demirian, were setting the car bomb. The body of Levonian was found "scattered in hundreds of pieces". The men were members of a group known as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and planned the bombing as a political protest in retaliation for the genocide of the Armenians in 1915 in Turkey.

The 4 kg device severely damaged the five-storey building in which the consulate was one of several tenants, blasted a crater in the reinforced concrete wall and caused an intense fireball to strike nearby buildings, damaging about 20 buildings in the exclusive shopping and residential Toorak Road precinct of fashionable South Yarra.[2] Within minutes of the bomb going off, police and emergency services were on the scene. They evacuated the area up to 100 meters from the bomb site, including elderly women from a war widows' home.[3] Gas leaking from the consulate building was brought under control, and 70 firemen tackled fires that had broken out in shops and offices. Police said a 22-year-old student who was studying on the third floor of the building when the bomb exploded escaped serious injury because she had drawn the heavy curtains, which protected her from the blast. She had only minor scratches, and was treated for shock by ambulance officers. Earlier that year the federal police had the consulate, on the first floor, under 24-hour surveillance.

In a telephone call to the Agence France-Presse news agency in Sydney, an unidentified and heavily accented caller warned of further violence after reading out a list of grievances against Turkey. "There will be more," he said.[3] This was a second Armenian attack on Turkish diplomats and agencies in Australia. In 1980, in a local example of a much wider international campaign, two Turkish officials, the Turkish Consul-General in Sydney, Sarik Ariyak, and his 28-year-old bodyguard were gunned down by two people. The Justice Commandos for the Armenian Genocide claimed responsibility for it and despite a $250,000 reward offer by the Turkish Embassy, no charges have were laid and their assassins remain at large. Police said the attack was the result of a "long standing hatred against the Turkish people". In the 1970-1980s, Turkish diplomats were considered the second-greatest security risk worldwide, after Americans. Until 1986, 42 Turks lost their lives to terrorists.[3]

In Canberra, Minister for Foreign Affairs Hayden said the Government would review diplomatic security procedures following the bombing. He condemned the bombing "in the strongest possible terms", and said Australia's regret at the incident had been conveyed to the Turkish government. "Australia would not tolerate acts of terrorism, wherever they occurred", he said. State Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mathews, said there was concern that Victoria had become part of the international terrorist circuit. A special task force of more than 20 police was set up to investigate the bombing.

Trial and sentence

Levon Demirian, an Armenian-Australian restaurateur of the Sydney suburb of Epping, was charged with murdering Hagob Levonian of the Sydney suburb of Willoughby. He was also charged with having conspired with Levonian to commit an illegal act which would have endangered the lives of others, intentionally and without lawful excuse having caused damage to a building and endangered lives of others, and by having used an explosive device unlawfully and maliciously destroyed a building, endangering the lives of others. When Demirian's home was searched, police found a notebook containing the names, addresses and movements of Turkish Embassy staff as well as books and diagrams on electronic devices and circuitry. Police alleged they also found 174 sticks of gelignite at the restaurant where Demirian worked. The original of a copy of a receipt was found on part of the body of the man killed in the explosion.[4]

The prosecutor Dickson told the jury the accused and his accomplice traveled from Sydney to plant the bomb. The bomb was intended to go off on Monday morning when people arrived for work, by which time the two men would be back in Sydney. Police believed many more would have died if the bomb, detonated at night, had gone off during the day, as intended.

Demirian fled back to Sydney with his wife and child the morning after and returned to a restaurant his family operated in Lane Cove.

Demirian admitted being in Melbourne at the time of the explosion and admitted purchasing the white Torana which was used to place the bomb under the consulate only hours before the blast.

The consulate bombing was not the first time Demirian had come to the attention of investigators. In 1980 he was questioned over the assassination of Turkish consul-general Sarik Artyak and his bodyguard in Sydney. They died in a hail of machinegun bullets fired by the pillion passenger of a motorcycle.

On November 27, 1987 Demirian was sentenced to life imprisonment with a 25-year minimum, which under Victorian law, had to be served in full. The Supreme Court jury took five hours to find Demirian guilty on both the murder and conspiracy charges. Justice Kaye sentenced him to 10 years on the conspiracy charge and ordered it to be served concurrently with the life sentence for murder. He was refused bail because it was feared that Demirian, if granted bail, would leave the country. At the time of his arrest he was carrying an air ticket to Beirut.

Demerian then began a minimum 25-year sentence as the country's number-one high-risk security prisoner for masterminding Melbourne's 1986 Turkish Consulate car bombing. After the appeal to the Supreme Court the murder conviction was overturned, and he served 10 years. Demirian's Australian citizenship allowed him to avoid banishment to his native Lebanon when his prison sentence ended. He is living in Sydney.



More . . .: Terror Attack in Toorak (Melbourne Australia 1986)

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