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Skeptics Say No Proof of al-Qaida Links in Indonesia - 2001-12-13


A day after Indonesia's intelligence chief linked foreign terrorists to current violence in the archipelago, skeptics are saying there is no proof of such claims.

Western diplomats and political analysts here is Jakarta suggest there may be many motivations for the Indonesian government to assert that the al-Qaida terrorist network has links to groups in Indonesia.

On Wednesday, intelligence chief Abdullah Hendropriyono announced that al-Qaida was "cooperating" with Indonesia's militant Islamic group Laskar Jihad, or "the Holy War Force." Some blame Laskar Jihad for the recent upsurge in fighting between Muslims and Christians in the province of Central Sulawesi.

Mr. Hendropriyono's comments mark the first time the government has said publicly that it believes al-Qaida is in any way linked to Indonesia. Previously, officials denied that claim.

But the government may be trying to improve its reputation in Washington, says Harold Crouch, an analyst with the think tank, the International Crisis Group, in Jakarta. "So it's been suggested to me by people, even within the military, that Hendropriyono might be basically trying to blacken the name of Laskar Jihad by linking them with al-Qaida and it's also a way of impressing the Americans that Indonesia is taking firm action, even though the evidence that Laskar Jihad is deeply involved with al-Qaida is still pretty flimsy," Mr. Crouch said.

Western analysts say if Indonesia shows al-Qaida is operating in the country, it could win more aid from the United Staes to help stamp out the group.

Thursday, local media reported several Indonesian officials, including the national police chief, cast doubt on the al-Qaida connection. The top police official said his forces are checking on the allegations, but that there is no proof that any international terrorist group has links to domestic radical groups. The United States this week released a list of 45 countries where al-Qaida operatives are believed to have links. Indonesia is not on that list.

Washington has named Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network as responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

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