Australian authorities arrested 16 terror suspects on Tuesday — including a prominent radical Muslim cleric sympathetic to Osama bin Laden — and said they had foiled a major terror attack on the country by men committed to "violent jihad."
The Australian Federal Police said seven men were arrested in Sydney and nine in Melbourne in coordinated raids that also netted evidence including weapons and apparent bomb-making materials.
Leave it to their attorney to set the record straight.
Rob Stary, a Melbourne lawyer who said he represents eight of the nine men arrested there, including Abu Bakr, earlier had emphasized that the charges involved only membership in a terror group.
"They are not charged with being involved in the planning or preparation (of a terrorist act)," he said.
Well, that's a relief. The leader of the group, a cleric named Abdul Nacker Ben Brika (also known as Abu Bakr), said he'd be "violating his faith if he warned his students not to join the jihad, or holy war, in Iraq." So which is it, then? Is Islam for these men truly a "religion of peace?"
How proactive was Prime Minister John Howard? A new law allowing arrests in the planning stages of terror attacks facilitated this action. Call it "The PATRIOT Act Down Under."