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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 19:21 GMT
Indonesian radical calls for Islamic law
Muslim women celebrate Ramadan in Jakarta, Dec 2001
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation
By the BBC's Richard Galpin in Yogyakarta

A radical Islamic leader in Indonesia, who is currently being investigated by the police for alleged links with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, has called for the implementation of strict Islamic or Sharia law.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, leader of the Mujadeen council, said Indonesia's acute economic, social and political problems could only be overcome by enforcing Islamic rules and regulations.

Map
He was opening a meeting in the city of Yogyakarta, which was attended by about a dozen Islamic organisations, ranging from mainstream political parties to minority extremist groups.

Mr Ba'asyir has been accused by the Malaysian authorities of assisting Muslim extremists in their country, some of whom were recently arrested.

He has shot to prominence in recent weeks for a series of allegations that he is connected with the international terrorist network that the United States is trying to eliminate.

Arrests

After the success of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, Washington has been focusing in part on South East Asia. US officials suspect that radical Islamic groups in several countries, including Indonesia, have been co-operating at a regional and international level.

The arrest of dozens of extremists in both Singapore and Malaysia appears to show the existence of the network and its possible links with al-Qaeda.

The Malaysian Government, for example, has accused Mr Ba'asyir of providing leadership to many of the extremists it has detained. It also suspects the group may have connections with some of those responsible for the attacks on the US on 11 September.

But so far, little hard evidence has been made public to substantiate these serious allegations.

The Indonesian police says it is investigating Mr Ba'asyir, but he has strongly denied he or his Mujadeen council have any connections with Osama bin Laden or with any terrorist organisation.

See also:

11 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
'Americans targeted' in Singapore
04 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Malaysia holds 'militant Muslims'
24 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Malaysia denies harbouring terrorists
14 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asia's Muslims uncertain after US attack
04 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia's Aceh to have sharia law
04 Jan 02 | Africa
Nigeria's first Sharia execution
21 Jun 00 | Africa
The many faces of Sharia
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