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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 12:44 GMT
Indonesia militants to regroup
A militant Muslim group in Indonesia has revived its paramilitary wing, one of the group's leaders said on Wednesday.

Known for carrying out violent attacks on bars and nightclubs, the Laskar FPI section of the Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) will re-form next month, Siroj Alwi said.

The group's paramilitary section was suspended last November following mounting public criticism in the wake of the bomb attacks on the island of Bali.

The group is best known for organising raids against alcohol vendors in the capital Jakarta, in what members described as an effort to stem "immoral" behaviour.

Siroj Alwi said that Laskar FPI's objectives remained the same.

"We are sticking to our original mission, that is fighting against all kinds of immorality," he told the Associated Press news agency.

New recruits are already being accepted and given "morality training", he said.

They are free to reorganise themselves, but if they go and break the law we will arrest them
Senior Police Commissioner Prasetyo
"Registration of new recruits... will be both followed by a screening process," to prevent the group from being infiltrated by outsiders, said Tubagus Sidik, a close friend of FPI leader Habib Rizieq Shihab.

A spokesman for the police force in Jakarta, Senior Commissioner Prasetyo, said the police would only go after the Laskar FPI "if they turn anarchic again and conduct raids and sweeping operations."

"They are free to reorganise themselves, but if they go and break the law we will arrest them," Prasetyo said.

Many foreign embassies are warning their citizens to avoid Indonesia because of terror threats in the aftermath of the 12 October Bali bombings, which killed over 200 people.

The attacks have been blamed on Muslim militants, but Laskar FPI is not thought to have had any involvement.

Laskar FPI has insisted its dissolution in November is unconnected to the Bali bombings, but analysts say the group may have been anxious to distance itself from radical Islam in the weeks after the attacks.

Another much larger paramilitary organisation, Laskar Jihad, also dissolved in November.

Laskar Jihad has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of Christians in the Moluccan islands.

Its leader, Jafar Umar Thalib, was last month cleared of charges of inciting religious hatred.




SEE ALSO:
Guide to Indonesia's militants
19 Feb 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesian militant group 'disbands'
15 Oct 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Who are the Laskar Jihad?
28 Apr 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Muslim mob attacks Indonesia Christians
28 Apr 02 |  Asia-Pacific


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