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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Indonesian militant group 'disbands'
Suporters of Laskar Jihad leader Jaafar Umar Thalib demonstate in Jakarta
The group's leader is on trial for inciting violence

A lawyer representing one of Indonesia's most hardline Islamic groups, Laskar Jihad, has told the BBC the organisation has been disbanded.

The militant group has been fighting a "holy war" against the Christian community in the Moluccan islands and central Sulawesi.

Up to 10,000 people have been killed in the conflicts.

The lawyers denied the move was connected to pressure from the international community to crack down on Muslim militants, particularly after the Bali bombing.

A local television reporter based in the Moluccan Islands' provincial capital, Ambon, told the BBC he had seen the first boat filled with Laskar Jihad fighters leave the islands on Tuesday.

The aim is for all 2,000 of the militants to return home before the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in three weeks' time.

'War is over'

According to the Laskar Jihad lawyer, fighters are also being withdrawn from the conflict in central Sulawesi. The headquarters in Java has been closed down, along with the website.

Smoke rises over Ambon
Thousands have been killed in violence between Muslims and Christians
No official reason has been given for the disbandment of the organisation, which is blamed for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of people.

But one member has been quoted as saying a religious figure in Saudi Arabia had decreed the holy war was over, in the Moluccan islands at least.

The area certainly has been more peaceful over the past year, as has central Sulawesi.

But the Laskar Jihad leader, Jaafar Umar Thalib, is currently on trial for inciting religious violence, so this may be an attempt to avoid a prison sentence.

And it is hard to ignore the timing of the disbandment - especially as members of the Indonesian military are believed to be involved with Laskar Jihad.

Even before the Bali bombing, Indonesia desperately needed to prove to the world that it was prepared to take action against Islamic militants.

The United States, in particular, believes some radical groups here have links with al-Qaeda and therefore pose a terrorist threat.




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