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Indonesia Panders To Terrorists.


  1. In the wake of the Bali bombing & Indonesia's apparent adversion to rounding up Muslim terrorists, I find that the following article, which was written on March 27 this year, to have been highly prophetic.



    Indonesia Disappoints Its Neighbours and US With 'timid' Response To Terror.

    Age, Melbourne
    March 27, 2002

    By Rajiv Chandrasekaran

    IN Singapore and Malaysia, Abu Bakar Bashir is a most-wanted criminal. Law enforcement authorities there believe he is the ideological leader of a terrorist organisation linked to al Qaeda that plotted to blow up Western embassies in Singapore with truck bombs.
    But in Indonesia, Mr Bashir is a free man. In his white robes and pointy beard, he runs an Islamic school where nearly 2000 pupils hear him idolise Osama bin Laden, condone the September 11 attacks in the United States and lecture on the importance of holy wars.

    Singaporean and Malaysian diplomats have given interrogation transcripts and intelligence reports on Mr Bashir's alleged activities to Indonesian officials. The Singaporeans have handed over evidence that the terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiah has operational cells in Indonesia. But Indonesian authorities have opted not to arrest him or any members of the group.

    Washington and other Asian countries say this unwillingness to make arrests and failure to mount an aggressive search for another Muslim cleric believed to be al Qaeda's operations leader in Southeast Asia raise doubts about Indonesia's commitment to fighting terrorism.

    "Indonesia has been a big disappointment," said a senior US official. "There is a lot of basic stuff they should be doing, that they've promised to do, but they're not."

    A Malaysian official called Indonesia "the weakest link" in tackling terrorism. "They're not doing their part," he said. "We're sharing everything with them, but we're not getting a lot of information back."

    Indonesian officials say Western governments exaggerated reports of terrorist activity. "We have already used intelligence and other methods to trace the existence of terrorism that people say is present in Indonesia, but we have not found any," Indonesia's Security Minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, told the state-run Antara news service recently after meeting FBI Director Robert Mueller to discuss joint anti-terrorism efforts.

    Indonesian officials also say that aggressive moves against such clerics as Mr Bashir would result in a backlash from his and other extremist groups and result in unrest in a country where more than 90 per cent of the population is Muslim.

    "The United States and Indonesia have a common enemy," a senior government official said. "But it's not as easy for us as it is for the Philippines or Singapore. There, Muslims are in the minority. Here, most of our people are Muslims. We can't just go about detaining people. The people wouldn't stand for it."

    Her advisers say President Megawati Sukarnoputri fears a crackdown could also alienate the Muslim political parties in her coalition government.

    In public, US officials have been conciliatory towards Indonesia's approach to fighting terrorism. "We understand the difficulties that the Indonesian Government faces," Mr Mueller said in Singapore this month. Other nations' law enforcement agencies "work within a different judicial system, legal system, have different constraints on them, and it is not helpful for the United States . . . to preach to other countries."

    But US officials are privately seething. "It's hard to think of another country in the world that has such a potentially big terrorism problem and has done so little to deal with it," one US diplomat said.

    At the top of the list of US concerns is Indonesia's failure to arrest Mr Bashir and search more actively for one of his close friends, Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, believed to be al Qaeda's operations chief in Southeast Asia. Malaysian officials said Hambali played host to two men in Malaysia in January, 2000, who later helped hijack the American Airlines plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Later that year, the officials said, Hambali helped provide accommodation and a letter of reference to Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person the US has charged over the September 11 hijackings.

    Malaysian and Singaporean intelligence suggests Hambali is in Indonesia. Although Indonesian officials say they ordered a manhunt, Western diplomats said it hadn't been very intense.

    Authorities in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have arrested more than 40 alleged members of Jemaah Islamiah. Indonesia has arrested no one, even though the group is said to base itself on Java.

    Western diplomats in Jakarta say authorities have scarcely investigated other extremist organisations, such as the Laskar Jihad, which has been waging a holy war on Christians on Indonesia's Maluku Islands.

    Foreign diplomats and analysts, while acknowledging Indonesia's poor security forces, say its leaders are too timid to root out terrorists.


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