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Raids recall Sydney Hilton bombing

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Malcolm Fraser, pictured in 1999, was Australia's prime minister at the time of the Sydney Hilton bombing.

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Australia
Sydney (Australia)
Acts of terror

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- What is regarded as the first terrorist attack on Australia in the postwar era occurred in February 1978, when a bomb exploded outside Sydney's Hilton Hotel, killing three people and injuring seven others.

The bomb was in a garbage bin outside the hotel, which was the venue for a meeting of 12 Asia Pacific leaders of the Commonwealth group of nations.

The bomb exploded early on the morning of February 13, killing two workers who had picked up the bin and were loading it into their garbage truck. A policeman on duty outside the hotel, in Sydney's George Street, in the heart of the city, also died in the blast.

Australia's then-Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who was staying at the Hilton Hotel, immediately canceled the meeting of Commonwealth leaders and called out the army to strengthen security in Sydney against perceived "terrorist activities."

At the time, it was believed the Indian Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, was the target of the attack. But later investigations cast doubt on that theory, and the Hilton bombing remains the subject of conspiracy rumors.

No one claimed responsibility, though Desai blamed the Indian religious organization Ananda Marga, whose members had been demonstrating outside the hotel, for the attack.

In June 1978, three Ananda Marga members in Australia were charged with conspiracy to murder in an incident unrelated to the Hilton bombing, but were pardoned in 1985 after a judicial inquiry.

One of the three members, Tim Anderson, was arrested on 30 May 1989 over the Hilton bombing. The next day, a former Ananda Marga member, Evan Pederick, confessed to the bombing and alleged Anderson was the planner. Pederick claimed to have placed 20 sticks of gelignite in the bin outside the Hilton. He was convicted in September 1989 and sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Pederick testified at the trial of Anderson, who was convicted in October 1990 and jailed for 14 years. But Anderson's conviction was overturned on appeal the following year and he was released. Pederick also is now free, released in November 1997 after eight years in jail, and there is considerable doubt as to whether he really was the Hilton bomber.

Terry Griffiths, a policeman injured in the bombing, later claimed he had been told by other police it was an event staged by people within various Australian security forces. The bomb was to have been "found" by police in a sweep of the area, but the garbage truck arrived unexpectedly.

In a program shown by Australian Broadcasting Corp television in 2004, Griffiths told a film-maker: "The Hilton bomb exploded because no-one told my shift to prevent the garbage men from emptying the bin in front of us."

One consequence of the event was greater resourcing for Australian police anti-terror units, and for the domestic security organization, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO).

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