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Singapore Officials Welcome Indonesia's Pledge for Stricter Anti-Terror Measures - 2002-10-17


Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri is ready to invoke emergency measures to make it easier to arrest those suspected in terrorism attacks. Senior government officials in Singapore are welcoming President Sukarnoputri's pledge to bring those responsible for the Bali attacks to justice. More than 180 people died in the bombings there Saturday.

Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan told VOA that the bombing was a rude shock; but, he said, it shows that vigorous, coordinated action is needed to fight terrorism. "Now that this attack has happened in Indonesia, I am heartened that President Megawati has made a strong statement condemning terrorism and saying that her government is now determined to do whatever is necessary to eliminate terrorists," he said.

The deputy prime minister said the Indonesian government has no choice, because the attacks will drive away tourists and foreign investors. He said that could devastate the Indonesian economy.

Officials and security experts in the region say there are indications Jemaah Islamiah staged the attacks. They describe the group as the Southeast Asian wing of the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Singapore and Malaysia this year have arrested scores of people linked to Jemaah Islamiah. Singapore's Interior Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng said the group's leader is a religious teacher living in central Indonesia named Abu Bakar Bashir. "In the case of Abu Bakar Bashir, his name surfaced from the investigation of the group detained by Singapore," he said. "They have called him the emir, which is the chief of their group. From the information given it is clear that he is their leader and such information has been shared with the Indonesian authorities."

Singapore and Malaysia want Mr. Bashir arrested, but the Indonesian authorities say they need evidence against him. Mr. Bashir denies the accusations.

Interior Minister Wong said it was unfortunate that some politicians in Indonesia denied there were terrorist groups in the country, but he said that perception has changed. "Unfortunately the Bali incident has served as a wake-up call, and I am pleased to read in our papers that the president is considering taking tougher measures to deal with the problem," he said.

Indonesian officials say a large number of Jemaah Islamiah members are still at large and fear they may be plotting new attacks. They say they are ready to help bring them to justice.

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