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Muslim Cleric to be Questioned in Indonesia


Indonesian police are bringing a Muslim cleric suspected of links to terrorism to the capital Jakarta for questioning sparking violence between his supporters and police. Abu Bakar Bashir was released from a hospital Monday where he spent the first 10 days of his detention. The move comes as Indonesia's top security minister announced the formation of a new body to counter-terrorism in Indonesia.

Indonesian police clashed with students outside the hospital in the Central Java town of Solo when Abu Bakar Bashir was released from care into custody on Monday. Most of the roughly 150 students protesting are from the Islamic boarding school where Mr. Bashir teaches. They threw rocks at authorities who responded by beating some students with sticks. At least one policeman was slightly injured in the scuffle.

Mr. Bashir was arrested nine days ago in the hospital where he was admitted after complaining of breathing difficulties. His arrest follows the Indonesian government's decision to push through emergency anti-terrorism legislation in the wake of the devastating bomb attack in Bali that claimed the lives of at least 191 people on October 12. Hundreds of others were injured. But Mr. Bashir was not arrested in connection with the Bali bombing. Instead he is to be questioned in relation to a series of deadly bombings at churches across Indonesia on Christmas Eve in 2000.

Regional governments and the United States charge that Mr. Bashir is the head of Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist group determined to create an Islamic state across Southeast Asia. Mr. Bashir has consistently denied having any links to terrorism or to the Bali bombing.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's top security minister says the government is forming a new body to counter terrorism in Indonesia. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says the "Anti Terrorism Coordinating Desk" will work with international bodies on intelligence to combat terrorism. The bombing in Bali, he says, not only killed civilians and caused physical destruction, but the Bali bomb was also about destroying our country. The terrorists, he says, have humiliated us in the international community, they want to destroy our dignity, and they want the Indonesian situation to worsen and for further crises to happen.

Regional governments and the United States have pressured Indonesia for months to do more to fight regional terrorism. The United States has been urging Indonesia to do something about Mr. Bashir, and the State Department recently added Jemaah Ismaliyah to its terrorism list. Until this month, Indonesia has said that it lacked the evidence to go after suspected militants, including Mr. Bashir.

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