Bashir Blames Indonesian Policies for Jakarta Attacks
July 23 (Bloomberg) -- Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir blamed the Indonesian government's policies for the suicide attacks on two luxury hotels in Jakarta and said terrorism won't end until authorities respect the supremacy of Islamic law.
"The main cause of this disaster is the Indonesian government," the Australian newspaper cited Bashir as saying yesterday. "This will not end until the government follows the right path."
Bashir, who is the alleged spiritual leader of Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah and lives in the grounds of an Islamic school in Java, refused to condemn the attacks and said violence was justified in the fight against non-Muslims, the newspaper said.
Authorities are struggling to identify the two bombers, who killed themselves and seven other people in the July 17 attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels. Indonesian police yesterday released sketches of the suspects and appealed to the public for help.
The Marriot bombing suspect was described as a male aged 16 or 17, while the man who attacked the Ritz was said to be between 20 and 40 years old.
Police say the attacks may be linked to Jemaah Islamiyah, which is blamed for killing more than 280 people in a six-year bombing campaign in Indonesia.
Bashir endorsed the work of Noordin Mohammad Top, a wanted terrorist allegedly linked to the bombings, saying he "fights to defend Islam," according to the Australian.
Bashir denies being JI's spiritual head and his conviction for involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings that left 202 people dead was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2006. He continues to call for jihad, or holy war, against the West.
Some terrorism analysts say the government must crack down on Bashir and other clerics in order to uproot Islamic extremism in the nation of 248 million people, the world's most populous Muslim country.
"If Indonesia is serious about fighting JI they must arrest and retry" Bashir for "preaching hatred," Rohan Gunaratna, head of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said this week.
Police carried out DNA tests on the remains of the hotel bombers in an effort to identify them, police spokesman Nanan Soekarna said yesterday. The results showed they didn't belong to men called Nur Hasbi and Ibrahim, who were identified in local media reports as the suspected bombers.
Soekarna declined to comment on media reports that Noordin's wife was arrested by counterterrorism police in Central Java.
Noordin is the suspected mastermind of the 2002 Bali attacks and was allegedly involved in the 2003 bombing at the same Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people, a 2004 blast outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta that killed at least nine, and another attack in Bali in 2005 when three suicide bombers killed themselves and 20 other people.
He leads a JI splinter organization, and after the Bali attack in 2005 identified himself as the head of a group called al-Qaeda for Southeast Asia, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
The U.S. State Department's Rewards for Justice Program refers to Noordin as one of the most dangerous members of JI, saying he is "believed to be a top recruiter, strategist and fundraiser."
The near-simultaneous bombings on the hotels were the first terrorist attacks in Indonesia in almost four years. The attackers killed themselves and wounded about 50. Three Australians, one New Zealander and one Indonesian were among the dead and police are carrying out tests to confirm a Dutch couple was killed.
The attacks came nine days after elections in which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won a second five-year term, partly on his perceived ability to contain extremism.
"Terrorism is the enemy of all of us," Yudhoyono told members of his Democrat Party at a post-election meeting in Jakarta late yesterday. "They destroy everything and their victims are plenty. Let us save this country through prevention and by not giving space to these terrorists."
To contact the reporters on this story: Achmad Sukarsono in Jakarta at firstname.lastname@example.org Ed Johnson in Sydney at email@example.com .
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