- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

JAKARTA, Indonesia The spiritual leader of an Islamic militant group that reports have linked to the Bali nightclub bombings was named a suspect in a series of deadly church bombings across Indonesia in 2000, a police spokesman said yesterday.

Abu Bakar Bashir of the Jemaah Islamiyah group will be summoned to appear for questioning tomorrow, Deputy National Police Spokesman Brig. Gen. Edward Aritonang said.

Jemaah Islamiyah is suspected of involvement in bombings last weekend on the resort island of Bali, which is predominantly Hindu in an otherwise Muslim archipelago, that left at least 190 dead and hundreds injured. Most of the victims were foreign tourists, and the United States and other countries have called on Indonesian authorities to arrest Mr. Bashir.

Australia, which lost dozens of its citizens in the Bali attack, yesterday said it has new but undisclosed information about possible threats in Indonesia, and urged its citizens to leave the country.

Germany, Britain and Denmark also advised their nationals to leave Indonesia yesterday, Agence France-Presse reported.

Britain also said it was pulling out nonessential diplomats.

In Bali, police said the probe was focusing on a group of eight persons seven Indonesians and one foreigner who are being "intensively questioned."

"We hope that we will be able to establish their possible link with the culprits," spokesman Lt. Col. Yatim Suyatmo said.

And in Malaysia, authorities said a fugitive Malaysian, an Islamic militant with extensive bomb-making skills, was involved in the Bali attack.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard flew to Bali yesterday to meet with grieving relatives.

"There are no words I can summon to salve the hurt and suffering and pain being felt by so many," he said at an open-air memorial at the Australian Consulate.

He also pledged, one day after forming a joint investigation team with Indonesia, that the bombers would be captured.

"We will do everything in our power to bring justice to those responsible for this foul deed," he said, as relatives and friends of the victims hugged and wept.

Gen. Aritonang, on arrival in Bali, said police decided to declare Mr. Bashir a suspect in the church bombings which killed 19 persons after Indonesian investigators returned from questioning Omar Al-Faruq, a suspected al Qaeda operative in Southeast Asia who was arrested in Indonesia in June and handed over to U.S. authorities.

Mr. Bashir could not be reached for comment, but he has repeatedly denied any involvement in the church bombings as well as the Bali attack.

In Jakarta yesterday, President Megawati Sukarnoputri won critical parliamentary support for an emergency anti-terror decree.

Parliament Speaker Akbar Tandjung told Mrs. Megawati, a Balinese Hindu, that she had parliament's support for the decree, which would grant the government expanded power to fight terrorism but could also lead to a confrontation with Islamic extremists.

Drafts of the decree, which could go into affect as early as today, indicate it would relax rules of evidence and allow suspects to be held for three days based on intelligence reports that they had committed or threatened to commit acts of terrorism.

Indonesia has come under enormous international pressure in recent days to move against Mr. Bashir and Jemaah Islamiyah.

Indonesia's neighbors, Singapore and Malaysia, have jailed dozens of suspected Jemaah Islamiyah operatives after they were implicated in plots to attack Western targets in those countries.

However, Indonesia has long feared that taking action against Mr. Bashir could prompt a backlash by Islamic extremists. Ministers for the first time delicately said this week that al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah exist in the world's most populous Muslim country, but have tiptoed around the issue of moving against them and Mr. Bashir.


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