In July of 2000 a man phoned Australian intelligence claiming he had lunch with bin Laden in Afghanistan.
That wasn't all however. Sharing a meal with the number one terrorist was not the only thing the man had to go through. He also undergone a special preparatory course for terrorists; learned how to blow things up. He also received a special assignment while at the training grounds; the man was told to blow up Israel's Embassy in Australia.
The man's name was Jack Roche. Unfortunately, neither Australian intelligence nor their “allies” showed any interest in Mr. Roche's story (which took place 14 months before the tragic events of September 11th). Back then, secret services were not interested in Bin Laden's lunch and Mr. Roche's plans to blow up the Embassy. Now all of a sudden, everyone remembered this Australian terrorist. Bin Laden is still nowhere to be found. However, intelligence found a decent substitute, poor Mr. Roche. After all, the two ate lunch together.
In contrast to special services, Al Qaida got interested in Mr. Roche. First of all, due to the fact that while being non Muslim, he willingly adopted Islam and could not have appeared suspicious in the Western countries. During the court session in Australia, Roche's lawyer stated that his client could have easily become a valuable “informer” supplying western intelligence with all of the Al Qaida's goings-on.
It took two and a half years for Rochi to be taken seriously. He was then arrested. Last week, he was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment “for conspiring with Al Qaida to bomb Israel's Embassy in Australia.”
The Roche case is yet another stroke in an unhappy picture of failures of Western secret services. It simply portrays according to “Indian express”, how exactly the West perceived the danger of Islamic extremism. Perhaps, the West did realize the existence of threat; however it preferred to leave all the real evidences aside.
Both Australian and American intelligence possessed great opportunity to acquire valuable information from Roche, claims his lawyer. The lawyer also called the defendant “a spy, who wanted to come back 'from cold', but the doors were closed.”
Rochi wanted to share information regarding Al Qaida's future plans. He phoned the American Embassy in Canberra, Australia. There he was suggested to contact Australian intelligence. He followed the advice. However, his three phone calls to the Australian secret services did not yield any positive results either. Last week, Australia's Prime Minister John Howard admitted that “authorities made a serious mistake” by refusing to listen to Roche.
Nowadays, authorities are trying to “fix” the mistake. After the blast in Bali, intelligence began questioning Rochi; they were surprised how much he really knew.
Roche joined “Jemma Islamia” in 1996. In 2000 he went to Afghanistan, intending to fight along the Taliban forces against NATO troops. Instead, he got acquainted with the leader of Al Qaida.
Roche says he ate lunch with Bin Laden near Kandahar. He was taught the art of detonation while at the training camp. Such persons as Saif Adel (commander of the organization) and Mohamed Atef (the second person in Al Qaida) participated in the “discussion” as well. While in Pakistan, Rochi had two meetings with Sheikh Khalid Mohamed.
Roche was fearful that Al Qaida would simply destroy him if he refused to participate in their operations. He decided, so he says, to pretend he was executing all their commands but instead was informing secret services of the organization's evil doings. In 2000 he videotaped Israel's Embassy in Canberra.
Australian police finally arrested Roche, after members of the Muslim society became suspicious of his behavior. Roche was questioned for 9 hours straight. Australian police learned plenty of valuable information. He was found guilty in the planned terrorist attack of the Israel's Embassy. Facts provided by Rochi served as the basis for the verdict.
Photo: Jack Roche