- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

NEW YORK — Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose country has been lacerated by terrorist bombings, yesterday drew a line connecting Western powers’ failed handling of the Middle East conflict with the rise of Islamist terrorism.

Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, Mrs. Megawati also highlighted the link between Jemaah Islamiyah — the Southeast Asian terrorist organization behind a string of regional bomb attacks — and global terror networks.

“Although they are a small splinter” from Indonesia’s large and moderate Muslim population, Mrs. Megawati told world leaders, “the perpetrators of those terrorist acts represent a branch of international terrorism.”

“The motives and justifying arguments of their movement apparently arise from the prolonged unjust attitude exhibited by big powers toward countries in which inhabitants profess Islam, particularly in resolving the Middle East conflict,” she said.

“Indeed, so many eminent Muslims in Indonesia believe that once the major powers behave in a more just manner and make clear their impartiality in the Middle East, then most of the root causes of terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam — which in any circumstances cannot be justified — would have been resolved.”

Indonesian Islamist terrorist Hambali, also known as Riduan Isamuddin, is emerging as a key figure in global attacks on U.S. and Western-oriented targets and the linchpin between al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, various leaders of which were trained in Afghanistan.

More links between September 11 and Hambali’s network have surfaced in recent days, just over a month after the leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah was detained in a joint U.S.-Thai operation in Thailand.

A U.S. official has said that Washington wants to try Hambali in connection with the September 11 attacks in the United States, which left more than 3,000 people dead.

Zacarias Moussaoui, as yet the only person to be charged in connection with the September 11 strikes, wants Hambali to testify for his defense, a court source told Agence France-Presse.

According to a handwritten request from Moussaoui released by an Alexandria, Va., court, such witness testimony “will destroy the ‘dream’ story of a plane on the White House.”

U.S. investigators believe one of the planes commandeered by hijackers was headed for Washington. It crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after a passenger revolt.

Hambali’s younger brother, Rusman Gunawan, was arrested over the weekend in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, a hotbed of al Qaeda followers. Pakistani intelligence officials believe Gunawan, 27, was running Jemaah Islamiyah’s branch in Pakistan, the Associated Press reported.

Jemaah Islamiyah and Hambali are believed to be behind a string of bombings in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, including the explosions that killed 202 persons in the beach resort of Bali, and the most recent attack on the Marriott hotel in Jakarta that left 12 dead.

“Everybody is now realizing that Indonesia [is] a front-line state against terrorism,” Indonesian Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a gathering of business leaders in New York yesterday.

Hambali was arrested by U.S. and Thai law enforcement agents in August and is currently being held by U.S. authorities for questioning at an undisclosed location.

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