Explosives Theft Rings Terrorism Alarm Bell
Sunday February 19, 2006
MINING industry experts have warned the Federal Government that tonnes of high-powered explosives remain a soft target for terrorists.The warning follows the theft of 100 kilograms of explosives and 400 detonators from Milbrae Quarries at Leeton, in southern NSW, on February 3 or 4. They were stolen from two storage sheds with no security cameras or alarms.Police have described the incident as disturbing. It has been given "priority status" by command area investigators.The theft occurred more than five months after laws were introduced to strengthen security controls for the storage of explosives and other dangerous materials. To get a new licence companies must adopt improved security measures to safeguard against theft, sabotage or unexplained loss. But with a 12-month adjustment period, industry sources say companies are creating a last-chance window for terrorists. Others say the laws are still not tough enough.CFMEU general secretary Peter Murray said, "We live in a climate where we're subjected to almost a strip search every time we visit an airport, and yet significant amounts of explosives are not being stored in absolutely secure environments."Milbrae Quarries manager Chris Woods has so far refused to comment.The incident follows the theft of 75 kilograms of explosives, power gel and 135 detonators from Newlands Coal, near Glenden, in Queensland, between September 29 and October 13 last year.Sydney University expert in domestic and international security Dr Gil Merom said both incidents highlighted glaring gaps in the Government's security monitoring.He said the explosives from the NSW raid alone had the potential to inflict "wide-ranging damage"."On a bus, five to 10 kilograms would have maximum effect, killing most people on board." He warned that with smaller amounts of explosives lots of panic could be caused."Terrorism is not about hurting victims specifically but making sure the audience knows it is present. If terrorists kill two [people] and cause havoc with, say, flight schedules, then publicity flows and they get what they want."