Indonesian authorities build support for anti-terrorism decree

Friday, October 18, 2002

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesian authorities moved against the spiritual leader of an Islamic militant group Thursday, and President Megawati Sukarnoputri won critical parliamentary support for anti-terrorism laws following the Bali bombing that killed at least 183 people.

The suspicions against Abu Bakar Bashir of the Jemaah Islamiyah group relate to a series of attacks on Indonesian Christian churches in 2000, not to the weekend bombing on the resort island, Deputy National Police Spokesman Brig Gen. Edward Aritonang told The Associated Press.

Still, in announcing that Bashir would be summoned for questioning Saturday, the Indonesian authorities appeared to be responding to intense international pressure to crack down on terrorism and go after Jemaah Islamiyah.

Cleric denies involvement

Bashir, who lives in the town of Solo, about 250 miles southeast of Jakarta, could not be reached for comment. But he has repeatedly denied any involvement in the church bombings or the Bali attack.

As authorities struggled to identify the dead five days after the Bali attack, bombers struck at two department stores in neighboring Philippines, killing six people and injuring 144, the military said.

The Philippines' military said Thursday's blasts in the southern Christian city of Zamboanga could be the work of Abu Sayyaf militants. Philippine officials have said Abu Sayyaf may be linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida group, which allegedly has ties with Jemaah Islamiyah, the group viewed by the United States and Australia as a prime suspect in the Bali bombing.

The Christmas Eve church bombings in Jakarta and nine other cities and towns killed 19 people and injured dozens.

Aritonang said police decided to declare Bashir a suspect in the church bombings after Indonesian investigators returned from questioning Omar Al-Faruq, a suspected al-Qaida operative in Southeast Asia who was arrested in Indonesia in June and handed over to U.S. authorities.

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