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Indonesian Muslims Threaten Holy War Against US - 2001-09-19

Leaders of several small Islamic groups in Indonesia have threatened to launch a holy war against the United States, if Washington launches military action against Afghanistan in response to last week's terror attacks.

The leaders of nine Islamic groups in Indonesia warned the United States not to "play with fire" by attacking Afghanistan. In a joint statement issued Wednesday, the leaders said that if Afghanistan is attacked by the United States, Muslims around the world would be obligated to fight back.

Ayib Syafruddin, from the fundamentalist group "Holy War Force," says just because the victims of the attacks were white and come from a superpower the issue should not be exaggerated. He says, millions of women and children in Muslim countries, such as Iraq and Palestine, have died as a result of U.S. actions to defend Israel.

Another leader, Muhammad Kalono from the Jundullah Force, says, if the United States attacks Afghanistan, it will face a reality "more bitter" than that what it faced during the Vietnam War. He says, when Vietnam was attacked, it was only the Vietnamese who fought back. However, he says all Muslims would respond if Afghanistan were attacked.

The Islamic leaders also called on Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri not to collapse under U.S. pressure. Ms. Megawati is in Washington to meet President Bush.

With 210 million people, Indonesia is the world's most-populous Muslim country.

The nine groups that issued the statement are among the smaller Islamic groups in Indonesia. Local media report that one of the larger groups, Muhammadiya, which boasts 28 million members, has urged its followers to exercise caution.