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Al Qaeda links to Indonesian violence

The body of Italian tourist Lorenzo Tadey, killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus last Thursday near Mayoa village in Central Sulawesi
The body of Italian tourist Lorenzo Tadey, killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus last Thursday near Mayoa village in Central Sulawesi  

By Maria Ressa
CNN Jakarta Bureau Chief

(CNN) -- Since the late 80's, the Indonesian town of Poso in Central Sulawesi has been the scene of sporadic violence between Muslims and Christians.

In 1998, it flared into all-out war, much like neighboring Ambon, where more than 10,000 people have died since 1999.

Last December, the Indonesian government brokered a peace pact, violated by hardline groups.

Last week, a bus ambush killed an Italian tourist.

Over the weekend, violence flared again and on Tuesday, there are reports of at least 5 people killed, hundreds of homes burned in attacks on Christian villages.

Now Indonesian intelligence officials tell CNN they believe the conflict in Sulawesi may be fuelled and funded by al Qaeda.

Officials in the region agree.

CNN's Maria Ressa reports that Southeast Asian authorities fear al Qaeda is fueling and funding civil unrest in Indonesia.

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"There are some connections there and I really pity the people because they are being pitted against each other using emotions, using long deep frustrations," Philippine Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo says

The link is Indonesian Agus Dwikarna, now in prison in the Philippines. (Full story)

Intelligence officials in Manila say he commands a militia group based in Poso with six battalions or a total of 2,000 Muslim fighters. It's called Laskar Jundullah.

"Laskar Jundullah has also been accused of providing arms in Poso. It's a breakdown of law and order. And I think the fact that you've got a large unaccountable militia should be of concern not only to the Indonesian government but of deep concern to governments outside as well," says Sidney Jones, who this week released a report on al Qaeda links in Southeast Asia.

An internal Philippine police document obtained by CNN says: "Agus Dwikarna has direct links to al Qaeda thru Omar al-Faruq, al Qaeda's senior representative in Southeast Asia, and Ayam Al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's No. 2 man."

Indonesian intelligence officials tell CNN Omar Al-Faruq lived in Indonesia for five or six years, working closely with Dwikarna in conflict areas in the country.

Omar al-Faruq was deported by Indonesian authorities last June and is now in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

But Dwikarna is also connected to the al Qaeda cell in Spain led by Imad Eddin Barakat Yarbas.

After his arrest, court documents named his Indonesian No. 2, Parlindungan Siregar, and said Siregar arranged for several hundred al Qaeda operatives from Europe to travel to Indonesia for training.

Spanish documents dated November 11, 2001 called Siregar "the leader of one of the existing camps in Indonesia at the service of Osama Bin Laden."

That, intelligence officials say, is a camp set up by Agus Dwikarna.

Indonesian intelligence officials say that camp was shut down soon after September 11, but they also tell CNN they believe another al Qaeda training camp has been set up in Suluwesi.

Tracking down al Qaeda operatives who exploit areas where law and order has broken down is an added challenge for Indonesia's fledgling democracy.




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