Australian police charged four more men yesterday with planning to attack an army base and shoot soldiers as the government considered whether to ban a Somalia militant group linked to the plot.
During a brief court hearing in Melbourne yesterday, one of those charged refused to stand before the court and then shouted at the presiding magistrate.
“You call me a terrorist? I have never killed a person in my life, said Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, 33, before he was led to a jail cell. “Your army kills innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel takes Palestinian land by force,” he said.
Australia has tightened its anti-terrorism laws since the Sept. 11 attacks on the US, but analysts say the country remains a target because of its contribution to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A total of five men have been charged with terrorism offenses. All have been remanded in jail to reappear in the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court in Oct. 26.
The five, all Australian citizens with Somali and Lebanese backgrounds, were arrested in a series of police raids on Tuesday across Melbourne.
Police said they had links to the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab in Somalia and planned a commando-style attack to kill soldiers on a Sydney army base.
Prosecutors told the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday they had evidence some of the men had taken part in training in Somalia and at least one had engaged in frontline fighting in Somalia.
The arrests coincide with a surge in Western concern about radicalization of some Western converts to Islam.
On July 29, US Attorney General Eric Holder warned of increased “radicalization” of Americans going abroad and then returning home with the “aim of doing harm to the American people.”
He was speaking two days after seven people were arrested in North Carolina for allegedly plotting attacks overseas.
Holder also expressed concerns about a group of young Somali men leaving the Minneapolis area to join al-Shabaab.
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