Updated January 2, 2012
The Melbourne suburb of South Yarra was rocked by a blast in the early hours of 23 November 1986. A car containing a bomb had exploded in the car park below the Turkish Consulate, wrecking the building and damaging shops in the area. An elite group of Victorian police were called together to find those responsible for the apparent act of terrorism. The discovery of human remains at the crime scene suggested the bomber had been killed in the explosion. While the bomber had been blasted beyond recognition, other vital . . clues had survived the explosion. Identifiable sections of the bomb car and a wallet containing vital links to those involved were recovered. Through careful examination of crime scene evidence, investigators were able to identify those responsible. The case was the first act of terrorism investigated and prosecuted in Victoria
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30 August 2006, Presented by Lisa McCune
ASIO detected bomb plot by Armenian terrorists
by: Brendan Nicholson
From: The Australian
January 02, 2012
1983 Cabinet Papers released
Cabinet papers from the era that ushered in Bob Hawke and thirteen years of Labor rule are released.
IN 1983, ASIO was trying to track down those responsible for a terrorist attack in Sydney when investigators discovered another atrocity was being planned.
ASIO's action appears to have stalled the plot and delayed the follow-up attack for three years.
Cabinet papers released yesterday show that ASIO had little to go on, but in October 1983 it briefed the Hawke cabinet on its concerns that a group called Justice Commandos Against Armenian Genocide was planning an attack in Australia.
In 10 years, the group had killed dozens of Turkish diplomats around the world.
Nearly three decades later, the ASIO document released today has still been heavily censored, but enough is left to reveal that a JCAG member, Krikor Keverian, was intercepted with four handguns in his baggage when returning from Los Angeles on July 12, 1983.
ASIO has removed the next bit but the document goes on: "It is believed they were the 'important things' he was reminded to bring back with him by Silva Donelian, whom ASIO believes played some role in the killing in Sydney in December 1980 of Turkish consul-general Sarik Ariyak and his bodyguard." Their killers have never been found.
The security agency said it believed something was planned, but it was not sure if or when it would take place.
The agency said a Levon Demirian was planning to return to Australia early from Beirut on July 13 "because something has been brought forward". Demirian's visit was cancelled after the discovery of the handguns.
On July 14, ASIO said another Armenian, Agop Magarditch, who had recently returned from the US, had reported guns were in a shipment of furniture and personal items en route to him from Los Angeles. The shipment was intercepted and a sub-machinegun, five pistols and ammunition were found, with information on how to carry out an assassination. ASIO said it suspected that Magarditch, on hearing of Keverian's arrest, had panicked and reported the weapons.
The agency said it had received reports from its agents that Demirian was in Australia and it was likely he had used a false identity to enter the country.
"Such an entry would suggest operational motive," ASIO said.
ASIO noted that the JCAG had just tried, but failed, to carry out an attack on the Turkish embassy in Lisbon. Some of those attackers came from Beirut and all were equipped for a siege.
It concluded the pistols being brought into Australia by Keverian were for use in an operation in which Demirian was to be involved.
ASIO said it was possible the group was planning a siege-hostage operation.
Responding to the agency's concerns, the Hawke government initiated a "special counter-terrorism risk alert".
It is not clear from the documents what ASIO did next or whether the suspected plot was ultimately foiled. But on November 23, 1986, a bomb hidden in a car exploded in the basement of the building housing the Turkish consulate in Melbourne.
The bomb had apparently exploded prematurely, and Hagob Levonian, from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, was blown to pieces.
Levon Demirian was charged with murdering Levonian.
ASIO warned of 1983 Armenian terror plot
Sun Jan 1 2012
It's almost forgotten now but one of the most notorious terror acts perpetrated on Australian soil was conducted by a little known group against a lowly Turkish diplomat.
In the attack on December 17, 1980, unknown gunmen assassinated Sarik Ariyak, the Turkish consul-general in Sydney, and his bodyguard Engin Sever. The culprits got away but there was little doubt they were linked to the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide (JCAG).
The terror group wanted an Armenian homeland, plus Turkish acknowledgement of the Ottoman empire's alleged murder of perhaps 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-23. Its members conducted a series of deadly attacks against Turkish diplomats and interests throughout the world in the 1970s and 1980s.
Federal cabinet papers for 1983 - released by the National Archives of Australia - reveal the Australian Security Intelligence organisation (ASIO) was sufficiently concerned about an attack that the government initiated a "special counter-terrorism risk alert".
In a briefing to cabinet on October 24, 1983, ASIO warned that JCAG had been planning an operation in Australia, although it wasn't clear if that could happen in the near future.
Much of the ASIO briefing document to cabinet was heavily redacted.
But enough remains to give a clear idea of the basis for ASIO's concern about a possible imminent event.
The document says a JCAG member in Sydney, Krikor Keverian, was found to have four handguns in his luggage when returning from Los Angeles on July 12.
The next paragraph is blacked out but is followed by the intriguing sentence: "It is believed they were the 'important things' that he was reminded to bring back with him by Silva Donelian whom ASIO believes played some role in the killing in Sydney in December 1980 of the Turkish consul-general and his bodyguard."
As well, the document continues, a man named as Levon Demirian was planning to return early from Beirut on July 13 "because something had been brought forward".
His visit was cancelled after the discovery of the handguns.
On July 14, another Armenian, Agop Magarditch, who had recently returned from the US, reported to authorities there were guns in a shipment of furniture and personal items en route to him from Los Angeles.
That was duly intercepted and found to include a submachine gun, five handguns, ammunition, information on assassination and much more.
"It is our suspicion that Magarditch, on hearing of Keverian's arrest, panicked and reported the weapons," ASIO said.
The agency cited a series of more recent developments, including agent reports that Demirian was in Australia and that he had probably come in under an alias.
"Such an entry would suggest operational motive. Any operation would almost certainly require an overseas commander and as the cell in Los Angeles is in disarray, Beirut is the likely source of such a person," ASIO said.
ASIO said another man, John Assadourian, had been appointed Keverian's "bodyguard" for reasons that could only be speculated upon.
"In any event it identifies Keverian as a person of some significance in the eyes of his associates," ASIO said.
The report cites a failed JCAG attack on the Turkish embassy in Lisbon on July 27 in which some of the attackers came from Beirut and all were equipped for a protracted siege.
"The possible significance of the Magarditch shipment and of Demirian's involvement is made clearer by this information," ASIO said.
It concluded handguns being brought into Australia by Keverian were destined for use in some JCAG operation, in which Demirian was to be involved.
The possibility that this was to have been a siege/hostage operation could not be overlooked.
ASIO said JCAG prepared its operations carefully, sometimes over 12 months, and that what was planned could have been in its early stages.
It recommended the alert should continue to November 6, and be extended if there was significant new information.
In the meantime, ASIO said surveillance of selected JCAG members would continue, as would telephone interception.
As well, NSW police had been asked to interview selected people with the aim of deterring any operations and locating Demirian.
That might have worked in the short term but subsequent events showed ASIO's concerns were wholly justified.
Around 2.16am on November 23, 1986, a car bomb exploded prematurely in the basement of the Turkish consulate in Melbourne, obliterating Hagop Levonian, who was subsequently identified as one of the bombers.
His accomplice Levon Demirian was jailed for 25 years for murder, although that conviction was quashed on appeal and he ended up serving 10 years for conspiracy.
Terror alert after killings
SHANE WRIGHT, The West Australian Updated January 2, 2012,
Australia's top domestic spy agency feared a string of terror attacks and assassinations against Turkish diplomats across the country, forcing the Hawke Government to secretly lift the nation's terror readiness.
Previously secret documents, released by the National Archives, show ASIO was actively targeting up to 10 people linked to an Armenian terrorist organisation with global links throughout 1983.
The Turkish consul-general, Sarik Ariyak, and his bodyguard had been assassinated by Armenian gunmen in late 1980.
It was one of a large number of murders and attempted murders by the Justice Commandos Against Armenian Genocide, which sought the creation of an Armenian nation in Turkey.
The documents show that Australia's terror readiness had been heightened in August 1983 because of growing fears of another attack.
Three years later, a bomb attempt was made on the Turkish consulate in Melbourne.
Terrorism History on Australian Soil
Terror Attack in Toorak (Melbourne Australia 1986)