Australian Islamic leader Sheikh Mohammed Omran is now claiming that Australian authorities have known since 1991 that Australians were going to Afghanistan to get training in terrorism — but did nothing to stop it. This from the Herald Sun, with thanks to Jean-Luc:
Melbourne Islamic leader Sheikh Mohammed Omran told the 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, including three Victorians, attended the camps, which included training with AK-47 rifles, marching and endurance drills.
Sheikh Mohammed said the camps were regarded as “normal” and “good” for teaching Muslim youth discipline.
But federal agents “didn’t like it and they used to tell me they didn’t like it”, he said.
Despite their concern, the trips continued.
“The Australian Government allowed it,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “It was something the Australian Government condoned by inaction.”
He said the Government now treated those who attended the camps as potential terrorists.
“Post-September 11 the Australian Government changed policy when the war on terror was born . . . (they) suddenly said these camps are terrorist training,” he said.
A security source familiar with the case said the camps were considered dangerous.
But the source said there was a belief within federal agencies before 2001 that the Foreign Incursions and Recruitment Act, 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.
“The prevailing view (by those attending the camps) was the legislation was weak and could be avoided, but they were covert about doing it so we understood they knew it was wrong.”
“We understood they knew it was wrong” — but still did nothing until after 9/11:
New laws explicitly banning such training came into place in July 2002, but are not retrospective, which means those known to have trained in the camps are unlikely to be prosecuted.
The source said shortly after September 11, ASIO director-general Dennis Richardson and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty met with key government figures and asked for an urgent strengthening of laws to stop the training.