Thursday, March 31, 2005


Terror in Sydney Australia

I just can't let go of that explosion at a pizza and kebab cafe in Sydney that I wrote about on Tuesday. Why so little coverage? And why do we not see the words "terror" or "terrorism" associated with it, even speculatively?

I thought, "Well, maybe bombs are so common in Sydney that it's a little like Baghdad. Who cares?" So I've been googling for mention of other bombings in Sydney. I've only been able to find two references,1 and I'm happy to report that the only other actual detonation of a bomb involved something that the press refers to as "chlorine bombs." They were also referred to as "improvised explosive devices" (IEDs), just like they have in Iraq.

The "chlorine bomb"

It seems that at the end of February there were four days of rioting in a poor section of Sydney. The riot was set off by the deaths of two teenagers who crashed their stolen car while being chased by police. In the midst of all this, a "bomb" exploded.

The accounts (and there are a number of them) are somewhat garbled. Some say the "bombs" were thrown; others that they were placed beneath a police car.

Here for your delectation is the strangest account of a bombing that I've ever read—

Police attacked with chlorine bombs
By Paul Carte, AAP
March 01, 2005

FOUR youths were being questioned after a home-made bomb exploded near a police vehicle parked outside a Sydney police station.

Two bombs, which witnesses say contained chlorine, were thrown at the vehicle outside Macquarie Fields police station, but only one went off, a police spokeswoman said.

"Four local males aged between 13 and 15 were arrested running from the scene after two small improvised explosive devices were set off outside the police station under a police RBT van," the spokeswoman said.

"Only one of them actually went off and the youths are currently being interviewed.

"They were arrested about 5.40pm (AEDT)."

Witnesses said they saw two boys aged about 12 approached the van on bikes before throwing the soft-drink containers filled with the chemical mix.

"It was a chlorine bomb - you could smell it," said a resident, who did not want to be identified.

"A couple of kids were going to put them under the truck when someone yelled out 'oi' and they pegged them. The police ended up catching them."

Police established a crime scene and removed one of the unexploded bottles, which lay under the front wheel.

About five metres from the van a white splatter on the road marked the spot where one of the bombs exploded.

As best I can tell, two young teenagers threw two soft-drink bottles full of bleach at a police van. One bottle didn't break and rolled under the wheel of the van. News of the attack made it all the way to India.

The terrorist trial

Finally, I found the words "terror," "bomb" and "Sydney." Zeky (Zak) Mallah, now 21, was the first person charged under Australia's new antiterrorism laws. Here's an account from March 21—

Terror accused 'planned suicide bomb'

The New South Wales District Court today began hearing the trial of Zeky "Zak" Mallah, 21, who has pleaded not guilty to charges under Australia's counter-terror laws.

He is accused of plotting to carry out a suicide attack on the Sydney offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) or the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), in late 2003.

The Crown claims he planned to kill ASIO or DFAT officers in the attack.

He also pleaded not guilty to offering to sell a video tape, typed statement and photograph of himself to an undercover police officer whom he thought was a journalist, between November 2003 and December 2003.

Crown Prosecutor Desmond Fagan SC today told the court the tape and statement related to the planned attacks, and Mallah also told the undercover officer he wanted to kill commonwealth officers.

Mr Fagan said Mallah planned the attack after DFAT refused him a passport in mid-2002.

"As a result of that refusal he developed a hostility to that department and ASIO", Fagan said.

The trial continues.

The trial may have continued, but the coverage didn't. And it's obvious why. This case is a complete fizzle if you want to promote talk of "terrorism."

Here's the only subsequent report from March 22.

A man accused of plotting to launch terror attacks on Australia's top spy agency and senior government officials was angry after being refused a passport but never planned to carry out the assaults, a court was told Tuesday.

Zeky Mallah, a 21-year-old supermarket worker, pleaded innocent in the New South Wales state Supreme Court to planning a rifle attack on the Sydney offices of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, or ASIO, or on foreign affairs officials in late 2003.

Prosecutors allege Mallah, a Muslim of Lebanese descent, planned to seize hostages and execute them.

Mallah's trial is the first under the government's tough new counterterror legislation. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

But his lawyer, Phillip Boulten, said Mallah never intended to kill anybody and only hatched the plan to attract media attention. "He was not a sleeping terrorist waiting to jump," Boulten told the court.

"He was a young dreamer, dreaming as it were of his moment in the spotlight," he added. Boulten described the plan as "bravado" and "nonsense."

He said Mallah was depressed at the government's refusal to give him a passport, which meant he could not go to Lebanon to meet his potential bride or make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

News media had reported Mallah's battle to have the government reverse its decision to refuse him a passport.

"He was receiving some relief from his depressed state from the buzz that the media was finding him attractive," Boulten said.

Mallah was also angry that the government never explained why he was refused a passport.

The court has heard that Mallah's phone calls were tapped by police, which prompted a raid on his Sydney apartment.

Police found a .22-caliber rifle, a note in which Mallah outlined his plans for the attack and an application form to become an ASIO agent, the court heard.

It just so happened that on March 21, the very day Mallah's trial began, the following appeared in the Sunday Times

Top police push for court of terrorism
By Martin Chulov

AUSTRALIA'S top police anti-terrorism experts are lobbying for the establishment of a new court to deal exclusively with terrorist trials.

Senior police figures believe a partial switch to a civil law system like the one used in France, where cases are decided through judicial interrogation, would be more effective than trials.

On the eve of the nation's second trial of an alleged terrorist, in which Zeky Mallah will face the NSW Supreme Court, police have suggested lowering the onus of proof needed for a successful prosecution for some terrorism-related offences.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has backed the police bid for reform but argued that a terrorist court should be taken offshore and given to an international body to administer.

"Just as some countries have introduced drug courts to deal with the global expansion of drug-related crime, perhaps it is time to consider an international court with special powers to deal with terrorism," Mr Keelty said. [emphasis added]

Let's review

(1) Okay. Let's go back to the kebab shop, owned by a Kurd. The explosion occurred at the front of the building. The police have ruled out a gas main explosion. The blast was large enough that the building must be torn down and that surrounding shops were damaged.

Nowhere can you find the word "terror" associated with this. In fact, you can scarcely discover that it happened. Yet this is the only instance of a (likely) real bombing that I can find through the press that has occurred in Sydney in recent times.

(2) Two boys throw some bleach and the police were "bombed." The news makes it to India.

(3) Australia passes "antiterror" legislation (the Australian Patriot Act) and before you know it a Middle Eastern terrorist turns up. The terrorist had wanted to get a passport, and before his arrest his effort to obtain a passport had been well covered in the media.

So our terrorist goes to someone whom he believes to be a reporter and announces his plan to kill agents of the government. Oh, and he wants to join the Australian intelligence service. Hmmh.

(4) On the day our terrorist's trial begins top police announce the need for a "terrorism court." The motion is seconded by the head of the Australian federal police (their FBI, you know), who adds that he would prefer that the court be offshore.


If you think you're going to get some kind of cockamamey conspiracy theory out of me, you're just wrong. The idea that the Australian media and government should be in cahoots to promote the destruction of civil, judicial and human rights by manipulating the news is patently ridiculous. That's the sort of thing you might expect of the Iraqis under Saddam ... or perhaps the Americans and British ... but surely not the Australians.

The bombing of a Middle Eastern cafe was probably conducted by some disaffected youths just out to have a little fun. No harm in that.


1 I had to exclude "firebombings." Firebombings are apparently a dime a dozen. Aside from attacks on mosques, synagogues and churches, they have also been employed in football rivalries. None of this falls under the heading of "terrorism." [back]

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