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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
South-East Asia's terror clampdown
Protester hangs banner protesting the ISA in Malaysia
Many are detained under an act critics want scrapped
Since the 11 September attacks on America, dozens of suspected Islamic militants have been detained across South-East Asia. BBC News Online investigates the clampdown.

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have signed an anti-terrorism pact which enables the neighbours to swap intelligence and launch joint police operations.

The sweep on Muslim militants in the region predates the strikes on the US, but Washington has warmly welcomed action by Malaysia in particular.

The arrests need to be brought to court, not disappear into the system

Amnesty International
Many of the detainees belong to groups that are believed to favour a pan-Asian Islamic state, but US and local officials also allege that they have links with al-Qaeda.

But critics argue that there is no evidence of this and allege that the US war on terror is being used an excuse to suppress opposition.

Many of those arrested in Singapore and Malaysia are being held under the punitive colonial-era Internal Security Act (ISA) which allows for indefinite detention without trial.


On 16 September, Singapore announced that it had arrested 21 suspected militants in August on suspicion of having links to international terrorism.

The authorities believe the group charged had plotted attacks against US interests in Singapore.

The government said some had undergone training at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and most were members of the group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which is believed to want to establish a pan-Asian Muslim state.

In December, more than a dozen people were arrested in Singapore on similar charges.

Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi
Al-Ghozi, suspected member of Jemaah Islamiah, has been jailed

The Home Affairs Ministry said information on bomb building, photos and videos of targeted buildings, and al-Qaeda linked materials were all found in the homes and offices of the suspects arrested in September.

Singapore has also put pressure on Indonesia to act against alleged militants, with Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew saying the city-state was at risk because leaders of regional extremist cells were at large in Indonesia.

It says JI is directed by leaders in Indonesia. Indonesia has retorted that while Singapore can jail suspects without trial, post-Suharto Indonesia is committed to the rule of law.


Indonesian Agus Dwirkana was jailed for up to 17 years in July in the Philippines for the illegal possession of explosives. He has been linked with a string of bombings in Manila in December 2000.

The Philippines military arrested Indonesian Hussain Ramos, also known as Ali Ramos or Abu Ali, in the same week, on suspicion of supplying explosives for use in an alleged plot to bomb Western targets in Singapore.

The Indonesian man accused of buying explosives from Ramos and linked with Dwirkana, suspected Jemaah Islamiah member Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, was sentenced to 12 years in jail in April for the illegal possession of explosives.

He pleaded guilty the day after to forging passports, for which he will serve a 4-6 year sentence concurrently with his other term.

In a statement to Philippine prosecutors before the trials he said he had planned the wave of simultaneous bombings that killed 22 people in the Philippines in 2000.

Aftermath of Philippines bus bomb in December 2000
Al-Ghozi admitted to a series of bombings in the Philippines in 2000

Mr Al-Ghozi said he plotted the bombings as revenge against a government crackdown on a Muslim separatist group in the southern Philippines, but he has also been linked to al-Qaeda via his connections with Jemaah Islamiah.

A suspected bombing mastermind for the rebel group Abu Sayyaf - Noor Mohammad Umog, also known as Abu Muslim Al Ghazie - was arrested in May, in connection with a series of blasts in southern General Santos in April.

Nine people alleged to be connected with the militant group Jemaah Islamiah were also arrested in May - most of them were detained during raids on a Muslim school and what police described as a training camp.

Police found bomb-making equipment although it is not known whether they were involved in a series of bombings in the south of the country in April.


On 17 September, Malaysia approved US interrogation of a former army officer, Yazid Sufat, who is suspected of al-Qaeda links.

On 18 April Malaysian police arrested 14 suspected militants, including Sejahratul Dursina, the wife of Yazid Sufaat who has been detained for allegedly letting two al-Qaeda bombers stay in the couple's apartment.

The government said they are believed to belong to the Malaysian Mujahideen Group (KMM) and police have warned that 100 suspected members of the group remain at large.

Malaysia's human rights commission said their detention under the ISA "constitutes a human rights violation" and urged police to try them in court.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
Suspected Jemaah Islamiah leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir

In January it was reported that Malaysia had arrested 13 suspected members of the same group which police said had links with Zacarias Moussaoui, the first man to face charges for the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States.

They were believed to be "carrying out activities which are a threat to national security", police said, claiming that members of the group were in contact with Mr Moussaoui in September and October last year.

Police said they found documents on guerrilla warfare, map-reading and use of firearms, along with "ideology-related" papers and studies of militant Islamic groups in the southern Philippines, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Indonesia.

In October the Malaysian authorities arrested another six men it accused of belonging to KMM.

Most of at least 10 other KMM members who have been held since August last year, are alleged to be members or supporters of the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), which has denounced the arrests as politically motivated.

But Malaysian police say that no PAS members have been arrested in this year's raids.


Omar al-Furuq, a Kuwaiti who is alleged to be al-Qaeda's most senior representative in South East Asia, was confirmed in September to have been arrested by Indonesian authorities on 5 June.

According to a report in the US magazine Time, Mr al-Furuq has admitted to being a senior al-Qaeda member and the mastermind behind a series of attacks on Indonesian churches in Christmas 2000, which killed 18 people and injured 200.

The leader of Indonesia's most militant Islamic organisation was arrested in May.

Jafar Umar Thalib is accused of inciting violence in the Moluccan islands and orchestrating a massacre of Christian villagers - a serious blow to a peace deal signed between the islands' Muslim and Christian communities in February.

The authorities are also investigating Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, accused by Singapore and Malaysia of helping to lead Jemaah Islamiah.

See also:

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30 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
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