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Aussie Muslims tipped off cops over volatile text messages

By Natasha Chaku
September 17, 2012 12:49 IST
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Members of the Muslim community in Australia's New South Wales tipped off police that radical Islamists were sending 'inflammatory text messages' seeking support for a protest over a video deemed offensive to Islam.

The rally outside the United States consulate in Martin Place in Sydney on Saturday turned violent leaving two police officers and 17 others injured, according Sydney Morning Herald report.

The paper said that Muslim community tipped off police that inflammatory` text messages were going around that were sent by radical Islamists ahead of Saturday's rally.

Six men have been arrested following the weekend clashes that took place between the demonstrators and police. Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione on Monday said that members of the specially formed Strike Force McAllister were making quick progress in hunting down those responsible for spreading the message, which urged people to join the protest because 'we must act now' to 'defend (the prophet's) honour'.

He said while police had been unaware of the planned time for the demonstration, they were on notice that something was set to occur, courtesy of the messages being  forwarded.

"Many of them were sent to us by people within the community who were outraged by what they were receiving on their SMS system or on their Facebook page and so they brought them to our attention," Scipione told reporters.

He said officers would similarly be on standby and ready to respond to any further protests by extremist groups.  A report in 'The Australian' newspaper claimed that Al Qaeda supporters were among those involved in violent weekend protests in Sydney.

Several demonstrators marched through the city carrying the black flags, it said, adding protesters were wearing headbands which read, "We are your soldiers, O Mohammed."

Meanwhile, US ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich thanked police for protecting the embassy on Saturday and said it was "business as usual" on Monday. "I was particularly heartened by the overwhelming outpouring of support that came for America in the aftermath."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard had on Sunday said the video was 'truly repulsive'.

"(But) there is never any excuse for violent behaviour. To anybody who wants to replicate that behaviour today, I just want to say very strongly that this kind of conduct has no place on the streets of our country," the prime minister said. Opposition leader Tony Abbott also said the protests were not "an acceptable face of Islam... Newcomers to this country are not expected to surrender their heritage, but they are expected to surrender up their hatreds".

The violent protests by some Muslims has raised concerns over immigration, with politician Cory Bernardi stating that it should serve as a 'wake-up call' to people who are in denial about a  significant problem emerging in Australia.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he was 'pained and bewildered' by the weekend's events but it was the work of a lunatic fringe.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said he was prepared to take action against rioters who are not Australian citizens, once the police investigation has taken place.
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Natasha Chaku in Melbourne
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