Indonesia to extradite suspected people smuggler to Australia

Kevin Rudd Sydney - An alleged people smuggler accused of ferrying more than 900 asylum seekers to Australia is to be extradited from Indonesia to face court in Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Tuesday.

Hadi Ahmadi, a dual Iraqi-Iranian national, is believed to have arranged the dispatch of four boats to Australia in 2001.

"This action further demonstrates the absolute importance for cooperation between the Australian and Indonesian governments in dealing with the scourge of people smugglers," Rudd said.

Ahmadi was arrested in June last year at Australia's request. Indonesia has no laws banning people smuggling on its statue book and so could only prosecute him for immigration offences.

The extradition agreement follows Thursday's explosion aboard an Indonesian fishing vessel carrying mostly Afghan asylum seekers off Australia's west coast.

Five died and dozens were injured when the wooden boat went up in flames while being escorted to a detention centre in Australia's Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island.

Home Minister Bob Debus, who said there were "thousands" queuing in Indonesia to make the trip to Australia, would not confirm reports that those on board the boat doused it in petrol to intimidate the Australian Navy into taking them aboard the escort vessel.

It was the sixth boat to arrive this year, and the 13th since Rudd softened Canberra's treatment of illegal arrivals.

Only seven boats arrived in 2008. Under former prime minister John Howard boats were intercepted and asylum seekers taken to Nauru or other Pacific island countries that hosted offshore immigration centres on Canberra's behalf to be processed there under harsher United Nations rules.

The so-called Pacific Solution was credited with stopping the flow of unwanted arrivals but was discontinued by Rudd who deemed it inhumane.