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Australia charges three men on terrorism offences

AUSTRALIAN police charged three men today with planning to attack an army base as the government considered whether to ban a Somali militant group linked to the plot.

Four men have now been charged with terrorism offences and police said they expected to lay charges later today against a fifth man in custody on other matters.

They were arrested after a series of police raids across the southern city of Melbourne yesterday, with police saying the men had links to the Somalia-based group al Shabaab and had planned a commando-style attack to kill soldiers on a Sydney army base.
Analysts say the hardline group has links with al Qaeda and has recently had success recruiting from the Somali diaspora and among other Muslim youths abroad.

While proscribed by the US, Al Shabaab is not banned under Australian terrorism laws, but Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the government would now reconsider its position.

"Given the events of the last couple of days, obviously that comes back into review again," Smith told Sky television. "We're dealing with a very serious situation here ... we're dealing here with an international phenomenon."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the government had ordered a review of security at all military bases following the arrests, even though Australian Defence Force Commander Angus Houston had said arrangements were adequate.

Australia has gradually tightened anti-terrorism laws since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, but analysts say the country remains a target because of its contribution to the Iraq war and its more than 1,500 troops in Afghanistan.

Australia has not suffered a peacetime attack on home soil since a bombing outside a Sydney hotel during a Commonwealth meeting in 1978 that killed three people. Some 95 Australians have been killed in bomb attacks in Indonesia since 2002.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed told reporters in Mogadishu the turmoil in their chaotic nation was to blame.

"We are sorry if Somalis who fled their homes because of the insecurity then cause trouble in other countries," he said.


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