Bashir link to al-Qaeda in Australia

Posted in Terrorism | 26-May-04 | Source: The Age (Australia)

Abu Bakar Bashir

Terror suspect Jack Roche only abandoned plans to set up an Australian al-Qaeda cell after receiving a direct order from Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, a court was told today.

Roche, 50, is on trial in the Perth District Court for plotting to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Canberra.

In earlier excerpts of a taped interview Roche gave to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), which was played to the trial jury, Roche named Bashir as the leader of south-east Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which was blamed for the Bali bombing in 2002.

Roche, who became a JI member in late 1996, said Bashir assumed the top role in JI after the death of Abdullah Sungkar.

Bashir, who is facing tough anti-terror laws in Indonesia, has denied being head of JI and also denied any links to terrorism.

During the AFP interview in November 2002, Roche said Malaysian JI operative Hambali asked him to go to Afghanistan via Pakistan, to meet an unnamed Sheikh who lated turned out to be Osama bin Laden.

In Afghanistan, Roche said senior al-Qaeda men directed him to recruit Australian Muslims for a terrorist cell, and undertake surveillance on possible Israeli government targets in Australia.

Today the court heard how following his return from Afghanistan Roche was summoned to a meeting with Bashir in Indonesia.

"And he said 'Well, look, whatever Hambali's asked you to do just carry on doing that ... whatever it happens to be'," Roche said.

"Whether he knew about it or not I don't know - Abu Bakar Bashir that is."

But later, after JI's Australian leaders complained about Hambali's interference in their territory, Roche said Bashir contacted him again.

"I got a telephone call from Abu Bakar Bashir telling me to just stop whatever I was doing, to stop it," he said.

The trial continues.