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Archive for Monday, August 11, 2003

Indonesian terrorists suspected of targeting U.S. oil companies

August 11, 2003

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— The Jemaah Islamiyah extremist network, already accused of bombing nightclubs in Bali and the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, is suspected of planning attacks on U.S. oil companies and other targets in the Indonesian capital.

A confidential document reviewed by the Los Angeles Times indicated that among the targets on the group's list are the Jakarta headquarters of Halliburton, Exxon-Mobil and Unocal. Indonesian police officials warned seven U.S. companies last month that their names were on a list of potential targets uncovered during a raid on the house of suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members in the central Java city of Semarang.

During the raid, investigators found a ton of explosives and uncovered evidence that Jemaah Islamiyah was planning to bomb targets in the district of Jakarta where the JW Marriott was located. At the time, police did not identify the Marriott as a target and were unable to prevent the attack last Tuesday that killed 11 people and injured about 150.

Indonesian police and U.S. officials declined to discuss any potential targets of the group, but the U.S. State Department issued an advisory Friday warning Americans of the danger of new attacks in Indonesia.

"The U.S. government believes extremist elements may be planning additional attacks targeting U.S. interests in Indonesia, particularly U.S. government officials and facilities," the State Department warned.

Asmar Latin Sani, who drove the van loaded with explosives to the Marriott, was identified Sunday as a former student at Al Mukmin, the central Java school that has been a breeding ground for the Jemaah Islamiyah movement.

Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, a co-founder of the school, has been identified by authorities as the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah. He is being tried in Jakarta for treason for allegedly approving a series of church bombings and plotting the assassination of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Authorities say Jemaah Islamiyah is affiliated with the al-Qaida terrorist network and that it also was responsible for the Bali nightclub bombing in October that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Police say two men arrested for the Bali bombing admitted recruiting Sani for the Marriott attack. They were able to identify Sani from a severed head found at the scene.

Police also report that they have recovered documents indicating that the Bali and Marriott attacks are part of a plan by Jemaah Islamiyah to create chaos and bring down the government, opening the way for militant Muslims to establish an Islamic state. Eventually, the militants hope the Islamic state would grow to encompass other parts of Southeast Asia with large Muslim populations, including Malaysia, the southern Philippines and southern Thailand.

Most Muslims in Indonesia are moderate, but Jemaah Islamiyah has introduced radical tactics more commonly seen in the Middle East, including the use of suicide bombers. Authorities fear that the group has stockpiled large amounts of explosives, weapons and ammunition for use in upcoming attacks in the capital.

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