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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Asia moves against al-Qaeda
Picture of Osama bin Laden at Jakarta stall
There are fears Indonesia could harbour al-Qaeda sympathisers
A senior Indonesian minister has confirmed that a suspected al-Qaeda operative, currently in US custody in Afghanistan, has been arrested in Indonesia.

Omar al-Faruq, who was arrested on 5 June, is alleged to be the terror network's most senior representative in South East Asia.

The region has been described as the second front in the US administration's "war on terror", with al-Qaeda cells believed to be operating in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.


The arrest was made in Indonesia and since he was not an Indonesian citizen, he was handed over to the international authorities for further legal process

Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
On Tuesday, Malaysia agreed to allow American investigators to interrogate a former Malaysian army officer accused of having links with senior figures in the group.

And on Monday, Singapore said it had arrested 19 people on suspicion of having links to international terrorism and al-Qaeda.

'Confession'

Indonesia's Co-ordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, confirmed that Mr al-Faruq was arrested by Indonesian intelligence agents in June.

"The arrest was made in Indonesia and since he was not an Indonesian citizen, he was handed over to the international authorities for further legal process," the minister said.

According to a report in the American magazine Time, Mr al-Faruq has admitted to being a senior al-Qaeda member and the mastermind behind a number of attacks on Indonesian churches on Christmas 2000, which killed 18 people and injured 100.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and Washington is concerned it may be home to al-Qaeda sympathisers.

Malaysia under pressure

American investigators now have permission to interrogate former Malaysian army officer Yazid Sufaat.

Mr Sufaat is alleged to have allowed a number of al-Qaeda members - including two of the 11 September hijackers - to use his flat for a meeting.

British High Commission in Singapore closed on 11 September 2002
There have been fears of attacks on US and UK interests in the region
He is also accused of having helped Zacarias Moussaoui, who is charged in the US with conspiracy in the attacks.

Mr Yazid is alleged to have met Mr Moussaoui and provided him with a letter of employment to help him enter the US.

The BBC's correspondent in Kuala Lumpur, Jonathan Kent, says Malaysia has been under great pressure to give American investigators access to Mr Yazid since his arrest in December.

On Monday, Singapore said it had arrested 19 people who it claims are part of an al-Qaeda-linked group that had planned to attack the US embassy there.

Some of the suspects had undergone military training at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, a government statement said.

Opposition groups in South East Asia say governments in the region are using the war on terror as an excuse to detain political opponents without trial.


Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

16 Sep 02 | Americas
11 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
12 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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