- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

SYDNEY, Australia Radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir visited Australia 11 times to spread the influence of the now-outlawed Islamic network Jemaah Islamiyah, the Australian government said yesterday.
Attorney General Daryl Williams said raids on the homes of Indonesian Muslims across Australia, which have provoked an angry backlash in Indonesia, were aimed at establishing the extent of that influence.
He declined to give details of the raids by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) spy agency on homes in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, but said there was no doubt they were justified and had been worthwhile.
The raids were part of Australia's crackdown on terrorists and search for information about Jemaah Islamiyah, the suspected terror network believed to be responsible for the Bali bombing in which almost 200 people, half of them Australian, died Oct. 12.
About 50 members of Sydney's Indonesian community staged a peaceful protest outside Prime Minister John Howard's residence here yesterday after what they saw as an assault on their civil liberties. They moved on after sitting quietly for half an hour.
Bashir, the reputed leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, is in custody in Indonesia on suspicion of involvement in several bomb attacks, though not the Bali blasts.
Mr. Williams said it was known Bashir visited Australia 11 times, often in the company of then-Jemaah Islamiyah leader Abdullah Sungkar. Bashir last visited in 1998 and Sungkar in 1999, focusing on Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.
"We don't know why they came here, but ASIO assesses that the purpose was to establish a Jemaah Islamiyah influence in Australia," Mr. Williams told an interviewer.


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