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Bali bomb case twist JAKARTA - The spiritual leader of an Islamic militant group suspected by the U.S. of involvement in the Bali bombings checked into a hospital in his hometown and avoided questioning by police after praying yesterday for the safety of Osama bin Laden. Early today, Indonesia's government approved a new anti-terrorist decree that will give it more power to fight terrorism.
President Megawati Sukarnoputri, looking to prove her resolve in the wake of international criticism following the Bali bombings, had been eager to get approval for the decree. Abu Bakar Bashir, 64, of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah organization, looked pale and could have been suffering either from asthma or exhaustion, said an aide, Soleh, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.
Bashir -- whom Indonesian authorities named Thursday as a suspect in a series of church bombings on Christmas Eve 2000 but not in the Bali attacks that killed nearly 200 people last weekend -- was scheduled to be questioned by police today in the capital, Jakarta. Indonesia has long feared that taking action against Bashir could fuel a backlash by Islamic extremists.
Government ministers acknowledged this week for the first time that Jemaah Islamiyah exists in the world's most populous Muslim country. The move against Bashir followed intense international pressure for the Indonesian government to act, and came after Indonesian investigators returned from questioning Omar al-Faruq, a suspected operative for al-Qaida in Southeast Asia who is now in U.S. custody. Bashir repeatedly has denied any involvement in the church bombings and the Bali attack.
Before he was hospitalized, Bashir led 300 followers in a defiant prayer service, where he accused the U.S. of inventing both al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah to portray Muslims as terrorists. "Even I myself will be arrested soon because I am allegedly a terrorist," he said at the service in his hometown of Solo, where he lives some 400 km southeast of Jakarta. "In fact, the terrorist is America." Bashir also prayed for the safety of bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader whom he has praised many times in the past.



Posted in Terrorism @ 19 October 2002 00:04 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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