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Monday, 14 October, 2002, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
The al-Qaeda - Bali bomb connection
Islamic Defenders Front protests in Jakarta
The government has failed to quell Muslim unrest

American Senator Richard Shelby probably spoke for most Americans when he said of the Bali explosion that he thought there was a "definite terrorist link", by which he meant a link to al-Qaeda or its sympathisers.

Mr Shelby is the senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a man given to plain speaking.

Guard outside US Embassy in Jakarta
The US Embassy in Jakarta is heavily defended
He predicted: "I believe this is the beginning of a lot more."

Indeed, if holiday resorts - the watering holes of the "enemies of Islam" - are to be targeted, the list of danger spots around the world will have to be extended.

But an al-Qaeda link has not been established and an attack on a civilian resort would be a departure from the normal pattern of attacks on the symbols of American power.

There have been a number of incidents recently which have demonstrated in any case that the war on terror is by no means over.

They include an attack on US marines in Kuwait and the explosion on a French oil tanker off Yemen, now said to have been deliberate.

The anniversary of 11 September may have passed off without major incident. The weeks following have not.

The war goes on - on both sides.

Al-Qaeda itself has put out drastic warnings of more attacks.

This is done by means of tape recordings, one of which was said to have been by Osama Bin Laden himself, though this is doubted by American intelligence.

Focus on Iraq

There have been some, including the former US Vice President Al Gore, who have criticised the Bush administration for being preoccupied with Iraq.

This, they say, has stirred up anti-Western feeling in the Islamic world and US actions are simply trying to tackle the symptoms not the causes of Islamic unrest.

US officials counter that, in fact, they have not taken their eye off the ball and that in particular there has been a huge concentration of effort in South East Asia which has long been identified as a centre of Islamic militancy.

The United States has had considerable help from the governments of Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Abu Bakar Bashir
Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has denied any links to al-Qaeda

Singapore, for example, says it has foiled a number of plots and in August it arrested 21 suspects, said to be connected to the Indonesian Jemaah Islamiah group, suspected in intelligence circles of having links to al-Qaeda.

Jemaah Islamiah is headed by the Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir who wants to found an Islamic regime across South East Asia.

One major problem for the Americans, however, has been Indonesia itself.

The government has made efforts to arrest suspects but overall it has not been able to impose its authority.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, spread out over thousands of islands, and is divided by religious and social tensions.

One of the arrested suspects was named as Omar al-Faruq - detained in June - who was said to be a senior al-Qaeda figure in the region. He was handed over to the Americans.

Embassy 'target'

According to Time magazine, al-Faruq cracked under interrogation and gave details of his contacts in South East Asia.

He allegedly said that there had been plans to destroy the US Embassy in Jakarta with a car bomb and to assassinate the Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Faruq was said to have married the daughter of an Indonesia Islamic radical suspected of playing host to two of the 11 September hijackers in Malaysia in 2000.

These are the kinds of links urgently being tracked by Western investigators following the trail across the world.

It is a trail which may now lead to Bali.


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14 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
15 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
14 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
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