Net closes in on banned Islamists

Four members of an outlawed Islamic group are being hunted by Indonesian police after their names were revealed during the interrogation of some recently arrested members.

    Alleged JI leader Abu Bakr Bashir's arrest has preceded nearly 40 more

    Police Detective Commissioner General Erwin Mappaseng confirmed that four men were on a wanted list, but he declined to reveal the identities of those who are accused of being members of Jimaah Islamiyya.

     “The hunt is still underway for four more members of the group. But apart from the four, we can't tell how many more there may be,” he told Jakarta media.

    The identities of the four were obtained during police interrogation of nine others who are suspected of belonging to Jimaah Islamiyya (JI).

    Interrogation death

    One of those detained allegedly shot himself last Friday, apparently preferring to commit suicide than face questioning.

    Police said the hand-cuffed prisoner managed to take an M-16 rifle from an officer, load a magazine into it and turn it on himself.

    In recent months, authorities have rounded up dozens of men accused of belonging to JI. The recent surge in arrests has focused on Jakarta and Semarang in Central Java.
    Abu Bakr Bashir, accused of leading the banned group, is currently on trial on charges of terrorism and of plotting to assassinate Sukarnoputri Megawati when she was still vice president.
    One of the JI suspects arrested in the Jakarta area was Pranata Yuda, also called Mustafa, is believed to have been a former chief for a region that incorporates parts of eastern Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern Philippines, police said.

    Net closes on JI

    Police also said they had found a JI base-camp near Semarang. They gave no details.

    To date, Indonesia has arrested at least 39 people in connection with the outlawed group

    Many Indonesians are ready to
    defend Islamic values

    Police commission chief Mappaseng says the nine targeted in the latest arrests were not involved in the Bali bombings. However the JI is blamed for last October's bombing on the Indonesian island which left 202 people dead.

    Thai connection

    As the search for more JI members continues, a senior Thai national security official said he believed former JI operations chief, Ridwan Issamuddin, was in Bangkok receiving support from nine Thai nationals from the south.

    But an exiled leader of a decades-old Thai separatist group has slammed both the Indonesian and Thai government's increasing number of arrests for forcing religious scholars to go into hiding.

    Lukman Bin Lima, deputy president of the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), accused Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of oppressing the Muslim community, according to the Nation newspaper published in his adopted Sweden.

    "Today, in these strange times we (PULO) ask our brothers and sisters in Pattani to defend the sanctities of Islam and our homeland," the Sweden-based Lukman said in a statement.

    Lukman accused Interior Minister Wan Muhamad Nor Matha, himself a Muslim, for "killing freedom fighters and Tok Kuru (Islamic scholars) to please Thaksin", the report said without elaborating.

    PULO is one of several groups seeking independence for Thailand's five Muslim majority provinces bordering Malaysia.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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