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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
Indonesia launches anti-terror drive
Local Balinese pray at the blast site the victims of Saturday's attack
More than 180 people were killed in the Bali attack
President Megawati Sukarnoputri has signed two emergency decrees to give the Indonesian authorities sweeping new powers to combat terrorism.

The move comes six days after the devastating attack at a Bali nightclub which left more than 180 people dead, most of them foreign tourists.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri
Despite earlier warnings, the government took no action
The country's cabinet met for several hours to discuss the two decrees before they were signed.

The Justice Minister, Yusril Mahendra, said one decree ensured the measures could be applied retro-actively to cover the Bali attack.

The other sets out the new powers, which BBC Jakarta correspondent Richard Galpin says are believed to include authority for the security forces to detain people on suspicion of terrorist links.

A special anti-terrorism unit is to be set up which would include officials from the security forces, the intelligence agencies and the government, Mr Mahendra said.

He indicated earlier that the death sentence was to be extended to apply to those convicted of terror attacks.

'Echoes of the past'

Despite numerous warnings in the past year by the US and others that Indonesian extremists were co-operating with al-Qaeda to launch attacks, Jakarta failed to take action, saying it could not arrest anyone without first obtaining proper evidence.

Our correspondent says the new legislation harks back to the sweeping powers the police and military exercised during the authoritarian regime of President Suharto, and has concerned many.

But Jakarta has come under immense international pressure to crack down on suspected terrorist groups following last Saturday's bombing.

No group has admitted carrying out the attack in Bali.

'No terrorist'

In another development, a radical Muslim cleric suspected by some governments of leading the shadowy Jemaah Islamiah group was rushed into hospital - a day before he was due to be questioned by the Indonesian police.

Radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir had agreed to talk to police

A doctor at the hospital in central Java told the BBC that Abu Bakar Ba'asyir appeared to have a breathing problem and would remain in hospital on Friday night.

It was very unlikely that he would travel to Jakarta to speak to the police on Saturday, he added.

The US, Malaysia and Singapore have been demanding the cleric's arrest for months.

After Friday prayers in his home town of Solo - and just before he collapsed - Mr Ba'asyir prayed for the safety of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, the Associated Press reported.

But he again denied any links with al-Qaeda or Jemaah Islamiah.

"I am not a terrorist, I am not a member of any terrorist group," Mr Ba'asyir said. "But I will probably be arrested."

He is suspected of involvement in a spate of church bombings across Indonesia in December 2000.

Correspondents say there is no evidence linking him to the Bali bombing.

Relatives' anger

Earlier on Friday, Australia's Prime Minister John Howard visited the scene of the explosion at the Kuta beach resort where so many young Australians lost their lives last week.

He looked grim as he surveyed the Bali bomb damage, saying that his thoughts were with the families and friends of those who died.

Many of the bereaved say that red tape and bureaucratic blunders are making their ordeal, as they wait for identification, worse.

Mr Howard said that while he sympathised with their anguish, the identification process needed to be thorough and carried out properly to avoid any errors.

He also said that while he did not believe Australians were being specifically targeted there was a threat of further terrorist attacks in the region.

"I think further terrorist attacks in the region are very likely... and as I've said repeatedly, it has an anti-Western connotation," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ben Brown
"The world will be watching to see whether [these measures] work"
The BBC's Richard Galpin
"Western embassies are on high alert"

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18 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Oct 02 | Politics
17 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
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