Subject: AAP: Resumed ties with Kopassus closer

Resumed ties with Kopassus closer

June 17, 2004 - 5:05PM

A resumption of counter-terrorism training between Australia and Indonesia's controversial Kopassus forces appears closer, with Indonesia's top counter-terrorism officer attending a conference in Australia this week.

Defence Minister Robert Hill, who addressed the conference on Thursday, extolled the benefits of cooperation between regional counter-terrorism forces.

The conference, held at Bowral on the NSW southern highlands, attracted representatives from 14 regional countries, among them the commander of Indonesia's Detachment 81.

That is the specialist counter-terrorism force within the controversial Kopassus special forces.

Australia halted all cooperation with Kopassus in 1998 following allegations of human rights abuses in Aceh, East Timor and West Papua.

But since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the US, the government has moved to a resumption of joint training.

Outside the conference, Senator Hill confirmed that Kopassus was represented at the gathering. Also in attendance was the commander of Australia's special forces Major General Duncan Lewis. Advertisement Advertisement

Asked if Australia was closer to resuming counter-terrorism training with Kopassus, Senator Hill said it was in Australia's security interests.

"One can imagine a terrorist scenario in Indonesia where that unit is called upon to respond," he said.

"In those circumstances we think it is very important that our special forces know who is responding and know their capabilities and be able to offer assistance - it might be in intelligence - to assist them in their task."

Senator Hill said the conference was the first time special forces representatives from 14 countries, including Australia, the US, China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, gathered to discuss how they were dealing with terrorism in their countries.

"The only way to effectively combat today's terrorism is through cooperation, and the forces that are at the sharp end of defeating this threat have not necessarily had a close relationship in the past," he said.

"But it is very important that they know each other and have confidence in each other so that if an event does occur that requires cooperative response, they won't be starting from scratch."

Addressing the gathering, Senator Hill warned that the region was becoming a breeding ground of Islamic extremism.

He said the regional extremists, the most prominent of which was Jemaah Islamiah, had adopted al-Qaeda's anti-western ideology and methods.

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