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8 at center of Bali bomb probe JAKARTA - Indonesian police focused the inquiry into the Bali nightclub bombing on a group of eight suspects, officials said, while the president won crucial parliamentary backing Thursday for an emergency anti-terrorism decree. Support from parliamentary leaders was considered necessary to give President Megawati Sukarnoputri the political room to issue the decree, which would give the government expanded power to fight terrorism but could put her on a collision course with Islamic extremists widely blamed for the bombings that claimed more than 180 lives Saturday.
The final version of the decree has not been released, but recent drafts show that the evidence rules needed to arrest and hold suspects would be relaxed and that intelligence reports could be sufficient making it easier for authorities to suspend some human rights protections in cases involving terrorism. Those protections were written into law after the overthrow in 1998 of President Suharto, whose 32-year dictatorship saw hundreds of thousands of people sent to prison camps for long periods without trial.
Megawati met Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung to discuss the decree, based on legislation that has been stalled in Parliament for months over fears it could give the security forces too much power. "The Parliament gives its full support to the government to issue the anti-terrorism government regulation," Tandjung told a news conference.
Indonesia has come under enormous pressure from the United States, Australia and other countries to strike against Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant group whose alleged spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, runs an Islamic boarding school. The decree could make it easier to take Bashir into custody. The government has long feared that taking action against Bashir could fuel a backlash by Islamic extremists. Ministers for the first time delicately said this week that al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah exist in the world's most populous Muslim country, but have tiptoed around the issue of moving against it and Bashir.
"I don't want to say who is behind this act of terror," Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Thursday in Bali. "There could be involvement of foreign nationals or Indonesians or there could be joint cooperation between foreigners and Indonesians." Australian Prime Minister John Howard arrived in Bali to attend a memorial service and look into problems Australians are having identifying remains of relatives so they can be brought home for burial.
"There are no words I can summon to salve the hurt and suffering and pain being felt by so many," Howard said at the memorial held on the lawn of the Australian consulate. "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. Australia, which is believed to have scores of its citizens among the 183 killed in the bombing, said that it had new information about possible threats in Indonesia and urged Australians to leave the country. New Zealand issued a similar advisory.
In Bali, police said the probe was focusing on a group of eight people 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. Malaysia has pressured Indonesia without success for months to take stronger action against Jemaah Islamiyah. A Malaysian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that a long-sought suspect, Azahari Husin, 45, may be involved in the attack.
Azahari received extensive bomb-making training in Afghanistan before late 2001 and was among seven militants who fled to Indonesia in January as Malaysia and Singapore arrested scores of suspects allegedly plotting to bomb the U.S. and other Western embassies in Singapore. "Our intelligence shows that Azahari is likely to have had a hand about the bombing" in Bali, the Malaysian official told AP. "Azahari is well trained in all types of bombs, especially remote-controlled explosives."
The official offered no direct evidence, but said the conclusions were reached by Malaysian intelligence, which has successfully disrupted the network at home. An Indonesian cleric who was long the right-hand man of Bashir, Riduan Isamudin, or Hambali, may also have been involved in the attack, said the official. Both lived in Malaysia in exile in the 1980s. Hambali is accused by Malaysia of arranging a meeting of two of the Sept. 11 hijackers and al-Qaida operatives in Malaysia in January 2000, as well as organizing the Singapore bombing plot. His whereabouts are unknown.
Yudhoyono indicated authorities may move against Bashir, whose aides said he was ill and did not appear Thursday at a police station as scheduled to give evidence in a libel suit he filed against Time magazine implicating him in other terror activities. "We could also (take legal action) against Abu Bakar Bashir, but we are still unable to say which organization is behind this," Yudhoyono said.
He said Indonesian investigators sent to interview Omar al-Faruq, a Kuwaiti citizen arrested in Indonesia who has been in U.S. custody since June, had returned and were reporting on their findings. Al-Faruq is believed to have been a liaison between al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah. "Legal action may be taken in coming days based on the results of the interrogation," Yudhoyono said.
Bashir has repeatedly denied any involvement in Saturday's blast. In a sign of a newfound resolve, Jakarta police Thursday arrested Habib Rizieq Shihab, head of a Muslim group blamed for a spate of attacks against nightspots in the Indonesian capital. Although the group has been active for two years, in the past police have ignored it. Australia has sent 45 investigators to Indonesia to join police from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and Indonesia. Bali police chief Gen. Budi Setiawan said nine FBI agents were working on the case.
Police in Bali said about 120 people did not return to their hotel rooms the night of the explosion, and that authorities were going through their luggage and working with consular officials to help in the identifications. Authorities said they have questioned 65 people including a security guard, the brother of a man whose ID card was found at the blast scene.


Link to related event Related event:
Bali terrorist attack


Posted in Terrorism @ 17 October 2002 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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