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Police probe alqaeda 9 11 05 threat { September 12 2005 }

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Police probe Al-Qaeda attack threat
By Jesse Hogan
September 12, 2005 - 10:57AM

Premier Steve Bracks has this morning urged Victorians to not panic about an apparent al-Qaeda terror threat against Melbourne.

Mr Bracks was responding to the airing of a video in the United States yesterday in which a man named Melbourne and Los Angeles as al-Qaeda's next targets.

It was released on the four-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York's World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington.

Mr Bracks said the State Government was taking the threat seriously, but also said he would not order a security upgrade around the city, nor ask for the state's terrorist threat level to be lifted.

"This sort of threat is designed to spread fear in countries around the world," he said.

"I urge all Victorians to treat this in the manner in which it should be treated ... to go about our business."

Mr Bracks said police and ASIO had yet to receive a copy of the 11-minute video, and as such were unable to determine if it is genuine.

"We are on medium alert and there's no potential change to that medium alert, which has been designated by ASIO."

The tape, aired by the America's ABC News, was obtained in Pakistan by the media organisation. It shows a masked US-born member of al-Qaeda -- believed to be Californian man Adam Gadahn -- threatening attacks on Melbourne and Los Angeles, "Allah willing".

"Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne," the speaker says, warning attackers will show no compassion.

"We love peace, but peace on our terms."

Gadahn is believed to have been the young American who appeared in another threatening tape about year ago.

'Standard type of propaganda'

Victorian Opposition leader Robert Doyle has also urged Melbourne residents not to be afraid, saying fear was a key weapon in al-Qaeda's arsenal.

Describing the tape as "a pretty standard type of propaganda," Mr Doyle said he had full confidence in Victoria's ability to assess and cope with the threat.

"The most potent weapon terrorists have is fear," Mr Doyle said.

"We should continue going about our lives."

Mr Doyle said he did not believe the threat was linked to the Commonwealth Games, to be hosted by Melbourne next year.

"All of the attacks we have seen have happened on every day lives, people catching public transport to work, not on major events. Major events tend to have heightened security," he said.

Security measures in place

Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the US Department of Homeland Security, said American authorities were trying to verify the tape.

He said there was "no specific intelligence to verify or substantiate" the threats made on the tape.

"We are certainly aware that al-Qaeda seeks to strike the United States and our interests abroad," he said.

"We maintain a strong and vigilant security posture."

ABC News in the US reported that Gadahn had apparently converted to Islam at a California mosque as a teenager.

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton told ABC News his city has strong security measures in place and would not escalate those as a result of the tape.

"We have a very robust counter-terrorism operation here in LA, similar to New York and Washington, because we are always a prime target," he said.

Assessing the threat

A spokeswoman for federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the matter was being taken seriously but it was too early to speculate on the tape's authenticity.

"It would be premature for the attorney to speculate about the tape because we're awaiting advice from our competent authorities," she said.

But American terrorism expert Bernard Reich, from the University of Virginia, doubts the threats are serious.

"My guess is this one isn't going to lead to anything, but it was an opportunistic effort because it was just prior to 9/11 and because he may well be trying to build his own credibility," Dr Reich told ABC radio.

"And to put it bluntly, while I find Los Angeles an appealing target, I haven't figured out what Melbourne is."

-, with AAP

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