Cleric: Australia knew of terror training

Jan. 14, 2004 at 6:39 PM
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MELBOURNE, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A Muslim cleric claims Australia's government knew Australians were training in Afghan terror camps 10 years before the 2001 attacks on the United States.

Melbourne Islamic leader Sheikh Mohammed Omran told the Melbourne Herald-Sun he was repeatedly visited by federal agents who asked him to discourage members of his group from attending the camps.

Up to 12 Australians attended the training camps, which provided weapons instruction, marching and endurance drills, Omran said.

The federal agents "didn't like it and they used to tell me they didn't like it," Omran said, but despite their concern, the trips continued.

"The Australian government allowed it. It was something the Australian government condoned by inaction."

Omran said the government now treats those who attended the camps as potential terrorists.

A security source said the camps were considered dangerous, but federal agencies believed before 2001 the only law then in place to prosecute such cases was essentially weak.

"It was extremely difficult to get the evidence to prosecute under the Foreign Incursions Act," the source said.

A spokesman said the government would not comment on the specifics of Sheikh Mohammed's claims.

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