Indonesia braces for violence
By Amy Chew
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia's entire 250,000-strong police force has been put on full alert as the world's largest Muslim nation braces for a backlash on the eve of a US-led war on Iraq.
Intelligence sources say serious threats of violence, including bombings, may be carried out by Muslim radicals belonging to the same network as that responsible for the October Bali bombings.
"This group of radicals is expected to target US, British and Australian facilities," a senior intelligence source told CNN on Wednesday.
The situation in Indonesia remained calm Wednesday .
Indonesian police have arrested 30 people linked to the Bali bombings, including ringleader Imam Samudra. The devastating blast killed more than 200 on October 12, 2002. The arrest was a major breakthrough and hailed by the international community.
However, Imam Samudra's arrest only busted a tiny cell. Many members of the network remain free and went underground or kept a low profile during the crackdown.
"There are many cells which are still around and they are dangerous. We expect them to use the U.S. attack on Iraq as the moment to emerge again. We don't know for sure the scale of their attacks," said the intelligence source.
The police force is taking no chances.
"The entire strength of the police force has been put on alert. They number 250,000," Indonesia's national police chief Da'i Bachtiar told reporters.
The Bali bombers are believed to be members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a regional terrorist group linked to al Qaeda. JI aims to carve out a super Islamic state linking southern Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and southern Philippinnes.
The alleged spiritual leader of JI, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, 64, is currently in police detention as prosecutors prepare treason charges against him for plotting to overthrow the Indonesian government. Police have not linked him directly to the Bali bombings.
The Bali bombers and their network have no specific name but are usually referred to as "the mujahideens" by security officials, as many of their leaders trained and fought in Afghanistan n the 1980s and 1990s.
The group total 272 men and call themselves "G272". Upon returning to Indonesia, they recruited young Indonesian Muslims to their cause.
The students are trained in self-defense as well as bomb assembly in villages in Banten, West Java and Balikpapan, east Kalimantan. Several training camps were also found in Poso, central Sulawesi a few months ago.
"They have managed to train between 1,500-2,000 people out of which 300 of them have bomb-making skills," said the intelligence source.
A police official told CNN men had been sent to monitor radical Muslim groups in anticipation of unrest in the event of a war in Iraq.
However, the intelligence source said the "mujahideens" were one group very difficult to infiltrate or scrutinise.
"The mujahideens operate in a highly-secretive and close unit. Even when their men marry, they choose women who come from families of fellow mujahideens. It is very difficult to infiltrate this group and the risks are very high," he said.