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Australia vows firm action on terror blasts

By Grant Holloway, CNN Sydney

Howard
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has little doubt the Bali explosions were a terrorist attack

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CNN's John Vause says Australia's government vows a response after making sure victims of the Bali explosion are returned home.
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CNN's Maria Ressa says the fatal explosion at a Bali nightclub is the latest in a series of attacks in Southeast Asia.
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CNN's Atika Shubert says the majority of those killed and injured are Australian tourists.
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CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) -- Australia's National Security Committee is meeting Monday to map out a promised "firm" response to terror threats in the wake of the Bali bombings.

The committee includes the Prime Minister John Howard, the defense minister and the attorney-general.

After the committee meets, Howard will then address Australia's parliament on the Bali situation at 2:00 p.m. Australian Eastern Standard time (0400 GMT).

And Australian Intelligence Security Organization officer and Federal Police agents have been sent to Bali to help Indonesian authorities track down the perpetrators of the attacks which have left at least 187 people dead.

Howard told media Sunday the government would be reviewing anti-terrorism security within the country.

He also urged Indonesia to allow other nations to help them deal with terrorism in the archipelago.

Howard said he respected Indonesian sovereignty and understood the sensitivities involved but said there needed to be a "willingness" for Indonesian authorities to sit down and discuss ways to deal with the terror problem.

Jemaah Islamiyah

Some Australian officials are already suggesting a radical Islamic group -- Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) -- may be responsible for the attacks.

JI has been referred to as the Southeast Asian arm of al Qaeda and is headed by Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Baasyir.

Bashir has denied any involvement in the blasts, instead laying the blame at the feet of the United States. (Cleric denies involvement)

Michael McKinley, a strategic analyst from the Australian National University, told CNN Monday that there were many groups with grievances in Indonesia and JI was simply the group which most readily sprung to mind.

But he said JI did had a grievance against Westerners and it was "at least worthy of speculation" that this was a JI attack against Australians because of their support for the United States.

He stressed there was still a wide spectrum of possibilities of who might be responsible.

Too early to say

Howard earlier denied suggestions the attacks were aimed at Australians because of the government's strong support for the U.S. administration of George W. Bush and the war on terror.

Bali is an extremely popular tourist destination for Australians with around 300,000 visitors each year to the island paradise.

Howard said the pattern of terror attacks was anti-Western and it was too early to say if there was a particular Australian component to this incident.

"I think a totally inaccurate proposition and what makes it inaccurate is the fact that citizens of other countries, that have taken what could either be called a neutral stance or a completely different stance from Australia, have had their citizens killed in terrorist attacks," Howard said.

There have also been suggestions that Indonesian authorities had warnings of the Bali attacks but did not pass them on.

Howard, however, said there had been no specific warnings about these attacks.

"There have been some general expressions repeatedly and we have expressed our concern in relation to them to the Indonesian Government and so have the Americans," Howard said.

"But there are a lot of terrorist groups, a number of terrorist cells in Indonesia, and that is a matter of public knowledge and public record and it has been a matter of concern expressed by me."

He said that concern had led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding on terrorism six or nine months ago between Canberra and Jakarta.

Howard told Australia's Channel 9 on Sunday night that what Australia wanted in response to the attack was a "measured, sensible but powerful reaction".



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