Indonesia feels pressure to act on terrorism
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia admitted it is feeling the pressure to perform in the global fight against terror, with the recent crackdown on suspected terrorists by its Asian neighbors adding to the sense of urgency.
"It seems that with the arrest of alleged terrorists in Singapore and Malaysia the pressure is on us to produce something," Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda told reporters.
Last week, Malaysian police announced the arrest of 11 people since December 9, who they allege are members of an Islamic militant group with links to bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization.
In nearby Singapore, authorities claimed to have detained 13 people in December suspected of having links to al-Qaeda.
Earlier, U.S. defense officials speculated that Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, was among those where Muslim terrorists would find sanctuary.
However, the Indonesia says there is no evidence that militants have taken refuge in their country.
'In our own time'
Wirayuda stressed that while Indonesia is part of the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism, it would act "in our own time and according to our routines."
Last week, Indonesia deported a Pakistani citizen with alleged terrorist links to Egypt. But authorities refuse to discuss the incident.
On Friday Immigration spokesman Ade Dahlan said that Hafiz Muhammad Sasa Iqbal was deported over a visa violation.
He said he did not know where Iqbal was sent.
But local media quoted intelligence chief Mahmud Hendropriyono as saying Iqbal is suspected of involvement in an alleged attempt last month to bomb an American Airlines jet enroute to Miami from Paris as well as other terrorist activities in Egypt.
Observers noted Indonesia had taken soft stance against suspected Muslim terrorists for fear of an internal backlash.
During the height of the military campaign in Afghanistan, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri urged the United States to limit the attacks.
But with the recent arrests of suspected terrorists in Malaysia and Singapore, as well as the deployment of U.S. troops in the Philippines to combat Islamic terrorists, Indonesia has felt the pressure to follow suit.
As Indonesia mulls action against suspected terrorist groups, Malaysian authorities, on the other hand, vowed to make more arrests.
Malaysian Inspector General of Police Norian Mai said the 13 suspects belonged to a wing of the Kumpulan Militan Malaysia.
The government claims the group, also known as the Malaysian Mujahadin Group, is trained in Afghanistan and has links with Islamic extremist organizations in Indonesia and the Philippines.
More than a dozen alleged members of the group were arrested and jailed last year in several operations starting in early August. None have been brought to trial.
But critics of Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad said he is using campaign against terrorists as an excuse to crack down on political opponents.
Singapore has recenlty broken up a network of militants targeting the U.S. embassy and American businesses in the territory.
As a result, security around certain embassies and other sensitive areas in Singapore has been tightened.
In the Philippines, 660 U.S. forces are expected to arrive in the week to take part in a large-scale joint military war games.
But critics said the games are being used as guise for Americans to take part in combat against the Islamic terrorist group, the Abu Sayyaf.
Earlier, the Philippine government admitted the U.S. troops take part in operations to rescue the remaining hostages, including an American couple, from their Abu Sayyaf captors.
The government also said that while the U.S. troops will not take part in direct combat, they are allowed to shoot back should they be attacked by Abu Sayyaf members.
The swelling U.S. presence in the Philippines, as well as the arrests in Singapore and Malaysia, have roused speculation that Asia may be the next U.S. target to flush out terrorists.
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