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Sunday, 13 October, 2002, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Indonesia's militant threat
Muslim militants in Jakarta

It is not yet clear who carried out the Bali bomb attack, and no group has said it was responsible.

But the bombing comes in the wake of several warnings that Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, has become a hotbed for Islamic militants.

It is up to the Indonesian people to defend Islam, or to choose to defend America

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
Indonesian militant

Most of these militant groups are small and poorly organised, inside a country which remains largely tolerant of religious differences.

They have been operating in Indonesia for years, carrying out low-level attacks on sites they consider un-Islamic, such as bars and nightclubs in the capital, Jakarta.

But since the 11 September attacks on the US, there has been speculation that Indonesia's militants were being orchestrated by more sophisticated groups, such as Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

Countries like Malaysia and Singapore have even warned that unless the Indonesian Government cracks down soon, the militants could become a threat to the entire region.

Lethal mixture

In the wake of the Bali blast, there will be fears that local Indonesian militants, keen to destabilise the government in Jakarta, carried out the attack with support and materials from international terrorists keen to target Western interests.

Indonesia has been slow to react to the terrorism warnings partly because President Megawati's government relies on the support of Islamic political parties.

Her Vice-President, Hamzah Haz, is himself leader of the third-largest party in parliament, the Muslim PPP.

Political sensitivities also explain why an anti-terrorism law which would help the authorities detain suspects has still not been passed by parliament.

There has also been limited public evidence of substantial links to al-Qaeda. Attacks which appeared to have terrorist fingerprints - such as a grenade which exploded near a US-owned building in Jakarta - were minor.

'Attacks planned'

The most damaging allegation came to light in September, when Indonesia said it had handed over to the US authorities a Kuwaiti national called Omar al-Faruq.

Al-Qaeda links
Omar al-Faruq arrested in Indonesia
Two 11 September hijackers met with Malaysian militant in 2000
Jemaah Islamiah members trained in Afghanistan

According to intelligence sources quoted by the US magazine Time, Mr al-Faruq was a senior al-Qaeda operative co-ordinating Islamic militants in the region and planning attacks on US and other interests.

Some of those interests were in Singapore and Malaysia, where police are detaining dozens of suspected Islamic militants under controversial security laws.

Authorities accuse many of them of belonging to a group known as the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which is thought to want to set up an Islamic state to cover Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.

One of the men being held in Malaysia, Yazid Sufaat, is accused of letting two of the September 11 hijackers meet at his apartment in 2000.

It is also known that individuals linked to JI were trained in Afghanistan before the fall of the Taleban.

Some of those people later took part in the religious conflict between the Christian and Muslim communities in Indonesia's strife-hit Moluccan Islands.

Despite these allegations, and pressure from its neighbours, Indonesia has allowed the man widely thought to be one of JI's most influential leaders, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, to remain at large.

Mr Ba'asyir, a Muslim cleric, has remained defiant against international calls for his arrest.

Last week he was quoted as saying: "I defend Islam. Now it is up to the Indonesian government, police and people to also defend Islam, or to choose to defend America."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Worrying signs of a widening pattern of terrorism"
Abu Bakar Bashir, alleged leader of Jemaah Islamiyah
"The attack in Bali was carried out by intelligence people from outside Indonesia"

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