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Friday, 4 October, 2002, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
'Militant threat' to Indonesian leader
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri
President Megawati has the backing of the military
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri faces a "significant threat" from Islamic radicals, an expert on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network has told BBC News Online.

Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside al-Qaeda, said Muslim militants saw Megawati as an obstacle to achieving their aim of creating a pan-Asian Islamist state.

Megawati is also unpopular with radicals who are against a female president for the world's most populous Muslim nation.


She will have no option but to act

Rohan Gunaratna on Megawati
Dr Gunaratna said he had evidence of two failed assassination plots against Megawati before she became president.

He said she was still a target.

The main threat, he said, came from the Jemaah Islamiah group, which is believed to operate across South-East Asia and has been linked to al-Qaeda.

Among the group's aims is the setting up of an Islamic state to include parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

"Megawati is an obstacle to reaching their aim," said Dr Gunaratna. "They have decided to pave the way for the Islamic leadership by eliminating her.

"Megawati faces a significant threat and this threat will persist," he said.

'In danger'

Megawati became Indonesia's vice president in October 1999 and president in July 2001.

"The Islamists are totally opposed to female leaders," said Dr Gunaratna.

Muslim woman in Indonesia praying at a mosque
Most Muslims in Indonesia are moderate
And he said Megawati should take "decisive action" against Jemaah Islamiah before the group had the chance to get more powerful.

"She will have no option but to act," he said. "She is under the impression that she will lose support for going against the radicals.

"But there is no guarantee that they will spare her."

Since last year's 11 September attacks on the US, dozens of suspected Islamic militants have been detained across South East Asia.

Last month the Indonesian Government confirmed that a suspected al-Qaeda operative now in US custody, was arrested in Indonesia.

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

According to Time magazine, which quoted a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report, Mr al-Faruq has confessed to plotting attacks on US embassies in the region.

But Indonesia is under pressure to do more to fight suspected terrorists.

Singapore in particular has accused Indonesia of not acting against alleged leaders of extremist cells who are at large in Indonesia.

Singapore and Malaysia have made a series of arrests, under the Internal Security Act which allows for indefinite detention without trial.

See also:

23 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
24 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
04 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
23 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
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