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Indonesian Authorities to Question Omar Al Faruq - 2002-10-10

The Indonesian government is sending police officers to the United States to question a suspected terrorist being held by U.S. authorities. Media reports say the Kuwaiti national tipped off authorities about a plot to attack several U.S. targets across Southeast Asia.

Indonesian officials say two police officers and an intelligence officer will travel to the United States to question Omar al Faruq. Mr. al Faruq is a Kuwaiti citizen, and apparently was arrested in Indonesia a few months ago.

Officials say the team will depart in the next few days, but it is not clear how long the investigation will take.

The American news magazine Time recently reported that Mr. al Faruq was one of al-Qaida's top operatives in Southeast Asia. Citing intelligence reports, the magazine said Mr. al Faruq told investigators about a plot to attack several U.S. embassies. That information prompted the closure of the embassies around the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The report also said Mr. al Faruq worked with Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir in planning attacks in Southeast Asia.

The governments of Singapore and Malaysia have pressured Jakarta to arrest the 64-year-old Mr. Bashir, because they say he is the head of an alleged terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiah. J.I., as it is known, reportedly wants to create an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.

Some U.S. officials have linked Mr. Bashir to J.I. Washington is debating whether to put the group on its list of international terrorist organizations.

Mr. Bashir denies having any connection to terrorism. He has filed a criminal complaint against Time magazine for what he says is slander.

Mohammed Mahendradatta is Mr. Bashir's lawyer. At a press conference Thursday in Jakarta, Mr. Mahendradatta said the United States is waging a propaganda campaign against the cleric before arresting him.

"We feel that it is like a psychology war more than the real legal war," he said.

Mr. Bashir charges that the Indonesian government has caved in to the influence of the U.S. government. He asks if the Indonesian government and police want to defend Allah or the American infidels? Mr. Bashir says he is defending Allah.

Indonesia has said it does not have enough evidence to arrest Mr. Bashir. But police officials say they continue to monitor his activities.