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Indonesian Cleric Bashir Warns More Terrorist Attacks Likely - 2002-10-17

An Indonesian cleric suspected of terrorist links is warning that there may be more attacks like the deadly bombing in Bali. The United States and the governments of Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, say the cleric should be arrested. Abu Bakar Bashir has been accused by the United States and several of Indonesia's neighbors of having links to Islamic terrorism. He denies the accusations, and any connection to the Bali bombing.

But he says further terrorist attacks may occur in Indonesia, because the Indonesian government has become too close to Washington.

More than 180 people were killed Saturday in Bali, when a bomb tore apart a popular tourist area on the Indonesian island.

Mr. Bashir says in an interview that as long as the Indonesian government is not firm about trying to stop, what he says is, the domination of Indonesia politics by the United States and Israeli governments, then he is afraid that this thing can happen again in the future. Singapore Interior Minister Wong Kan Sent recently told VOA that Abu Bakar Bashir leads Jemaah Islamiah, an Islamic militant group suspected of plotting terrorism attacks around the region. He says several suspects detained in Singapore follow Mr. Bashir.

"They have called him the emir, which is the chief of their group," he said. "From the information given it is clear that he is their leader and such information has been shared with the Indonesian authorities."

Jemaah Islamiah, known as JI, has come under close scrutiny since the Bali attack. The group advocates the creation an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.

The Indonesian government is under pressure by Washington and neighboring governments to do more to counter terrorism, and they have pressed Jakarta to crack down on Jemaah Islamiah. The government has said it does not have enough evidence to arrest Mr. Bashir. Indonesian Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says it is possible that foreigners carried out the bombing. He also says Indonesians might have been involved, but it is too early to release much information about the investigation.

"Trust us that together with our friendly nations we are conducting thorough investigations as quickly as possible, using all systems we have," he said.

The Indonesian government is expected on Friday to issue an emergency anti-terrorism decree giving the authorities wider anti-terrorism powers. The decree is designed to bypass Parliament, which has been bogged down in discussions over an anti-terrorism law. Meanwhile, at the Australian consulate in Bali, Australian Prime Minister John Howard spoke at a memorial service for victims of the deadly blast.

"I can on behalf of all of the people of Australia declare to you that we will do everything in our power to bring to justice those that were responsible for this foul deed," he said. "We will work with our friends in Indonesia to do that and we will work through others to achieve an outcome of justice."

Mr. Howard is being criticized in Australia because of allegations that Canberra did not do enough to warn its citizens of possible terrorist attacks in Indonesia.