Melbourne threatened in terror video
12:00 AEST Mon Sep 12 2005
Prime Minister John Howard says a videotape purportedly from an al-Qaeda operative that warns Melbourne will be the target of a terrorist attack may be genuine.
The tape, obtained in Pakistan by America’s ABC News, shows a masked US-born member of al-Qaeda - believed to be Californian man Adam Gadahn - threatening attacks on Melbourne and Los Angeles, "Allah willing".
Australian authorities are investigating the videotape.
Mr Howard says it may turn out to be real, but points out that Gadahn has made previous threats that have not come to fruition.
"It could well be authentic," Mr Howard told reporters on arrival in New York, on the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.
"But it could also be the case that the person who has made these comments in the past has not, how shall I put it, demonstrated to have had the capacity to deliver through on those statements.
"Clearly our country has been a terrorist target long before the 11th of September, 2001.
"Events such as this, whether the tape turns out to be genuine or not, only serves to remind us of the changed world in which we now live as a result of terrorist attacks."
Mr Howard said the videotape underlined emphatically the need for the stronger counter-terrorism regime he outlined last week.
"No government can credibly guarantee there will be no terrorist attack in his or her country but we can commit ourselves as we have done to do everything we can to strengthen our domestic capacity to stop terrorist attacks occurring in the first place," he said.
Mr Howard urged Melburnians to support next year’s Commonwealth Games despite the sporting event possibly being a terrorist target.
"The best response to things like this is to redouble our protective efforts, which we are doing, but also to get on with life, which we are also doing," he said.
"The Commonwealth Games will be a great event for Melbourne and I know the people of Melbourne will support the Commonwealth Games with the enthusiasm that they normally do for any major sporting event.
"There is no more dedicated, loyal sporting crowd in the world than the people of Melbourne and I have no doubt that they will display that typical commitment to sport, especially when Australia is participating."
Mr Howard said Australia had already organised disaster relief arrangements which worked well in the event of an attack or a natural catastrophe, such as Hurricane Katrina.
But he refused to criticise US authorities for being slow to react to the hurricane, which devastated New Orleans a fortnight ago.
"This was on a scale and a magnitude that this country hasn’t seen in my lifetime ... and you’re talking about the evacuation of a city of 500,000 people. You have to keep a sense of perspective."
Meanwhile, Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has urged Victorians not to fear a terrorist attack following the release of a suspected al-Qaeda video tape which nominates Melbourne as a target.
"Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne," the masked speaker says, warning attackers will show no compassion.
"We love peace, but peace on our terms."
Mr Bracks said adequate security arrangements were in place for a series of coming events including the AFL Grand Final, the Melbourne Cup and the Commonwealth Games.
"This video is designed to instil fear. That’s what it’s designed to do," Mr Bracks told journalists.
"Now, of course we would be playing into the hands of the people who perpetrated this media exercise in producing a video, we would be playing into their hands if all of a sudden we said, ’Oh yes, we’re fearful’.
"The reality is that we have very sound, secure security arrangements in place. Of course, there will be proper analysis of this tape and of course we will be making sure that all attempts are made to ensure that we’re more secure in the future."
Police assistant commissioner Kieran Walshe joined Mr Bracks at the press conference in Melbourne.
He said Australia and Victoria remained on a medium alert level, which was set by ASIO.
"No-one in Australia has yet seen the full copy of this video," Mr Walshe said.
"So we are unable to comment as to its content, its authenticity or any other issues relative to the video."
Mr Walshe said Melbourne had been gained media prominence as the host of the Commonwealth Games, due to be staged from March 15 to 26 next year.
As well, the recent case against Melbourne man Jack Thomas on terror-related charges would have also brought attention to the city, he said.
"Melbourne is a vibrant city. There is a lot of activity going on in Melbourne between now and certainly right through to the Commonwealth Games," Mr Walshe said.
"There’s been other issues that have certainly put Melbourne in the media agenda.
"There’s been the Jack Thomas trial and other issues like that."
Mr Bracks said the government had done all it could to ensure the public’s safety at upcoming large public events.
"The Victorian public can be confident that security will never, ever be compromised here in Victoria, never be compromised for any event, any activity and the Commonwealth Games, we will never compromise security arrangements," Mr Bracks said.
"The AFL security arrangements, the Spring Racing Carnival, all the events that occur in Melbourne, they have already been enhanced. They have been since September 11 (2001) and Victoria Police will be ensuring that they are monitored very closely."
Mr Walshe said he was satisfied with security for Victoria’s international events.
"The (national terrorism) threat level is medium. The indications are that there will be no change to that threat level," he said.
"The setting of the security level or the threat level rests with ASIO, not with the Victoria Police and not with the Victorian government.. ASIO sets that and we are advised by ASIO.