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Terror cells 'inside Australia' warning

From CNN's Maria Ressa

Officials say further attacks on Australian targets are highly likely
Officials say further attacks on Australian targets are highly likely

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SINGAPORE (CNN) -- The Islamic group suspected of involvement in last weekend's deadly bombing of a nightclub in Bali is believed to have set up cells inside Australia, Southeast Asian intelligence officials have told CNN.

The group is Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) whose suspected leader, radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, was arrested by Indonesian authorities Saturday.

However, the sources say it is unclear whether the JI cells thought to have been set up inside Australia itself cells are for logistical support or if they are operational.

Australian counter-intelligence officials say they are investigating the possibility that JI operatives have set up in Australia.

According to sources JI has strong links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and is believed to have been responsible for at least three previous attacks targeting Australians in the region.

Intelligence sources say they believe the nightclub involved in last weekend's blasts was chosen because of the predominance of Australians among its clientele.

Although he has been placed under arrest, Ba'asyir -- the JI's suspected leader -- has not been linked to the Bali blasts, despite authorities' suspicions that his group is linked to the attack.

However, he has been linked to a string of bomb attacks in Jakarta, including a series of deadly church bombings across Indonesia that killed at least 16 and injured nearly 50 others on Christmas Eve in 2000.

Australians targeted

According to intelligence sources the Bali blast, which killed more that 180 people -- mostly Australians -- was the third time in the past year that Australians were targeted by terrorists linked to JI.

Clerica Abu Bakar Ba'asyir has been named by intelligence officials as head of the JI
Clerica Abu Bakar Ba'asyir has been named by intelligence officials as head of the JI

In November of last year, a grenade was hurled at the Australian International School in Jakarta. No one was injured.

About a month later, Singapore officials uncovered a plot against the Australian High Commission in Singapore, part of a larger plot to bomb other Western targets including the U.S. Embassy.

The security experts believe the al-Qaeda-linked group evaluates its targets thoroughly, suggesting that they picked the Sari's nightclub in Bali because of its predominance of not just foreigners but also because it is frequented by Australians.

Australia has taken a visibly strong role in the U.S.-led war on terror and is also a fairly easy target because of its proximity to Southeast Asian nations, according to intelligence officials.

Australia currently has more than 1,500 armed forces, as well as fighter aircraft and support craft involved in the Afghanistan campaign.

Speaking Sunday as his country held a national day of mourning Australian Prime Minister John Howard re-affirmed his nation's commitment to the war on terrorism



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