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Indonesia Arrests 2 Suspected Terrorist Leaders - 2003-04-23


Indonesian police say they have struck another blow against the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network with the arrest of 18 suspects. The arrests include two men suspected of being leaders of the group.

Senior police officials say they arrested the suspected members of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network in a series of raids across the country.

Among the 18 arrested are two suspected JI leaders and three men linked to last year's deadly bombing on the island of Bali. More than 200 people died last October when two bombs tore through a crowded tourist district on Bali. Police blame the attack on Jemaah Islamiyah, which, they say, uses violence as part of its plan to build an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.

The United Nations and the United States have designated JI a terrorist organization. Washington says it has links to the al-Qaida terror network. One of those arrested is Nasir Abbas, who is believed to be a regional commander of the terrorist group. Police Lieutenant General Erwin Mapasseng said officers arrested Nasir Abbas outside Jakarta. The general added that Mr. Abbas is a Malaysian citizen. Police also say they have arrested Abu Rusdan, thought to be the successor of Abu Bakar Bashir, the group's alleged spiritual chief. The arrests occurred as Mr. Bashir's trial began in a Jakarta court. Prosecutors accuse him of committing treason by plotting to topple the Indonesian government.

The plots include a string of bombings at churches across Indonesia, a foiled attempt to bomb Western interests in Singapore, and an aborted plan to assassinate Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Mr. Bashir has not yet entered a plea, but he denies all charges of terrorism. The trial is expected to resume next week.

Mr. Bashir has not been charged in connection with the Bali attack. Authorities have arrested more than 30 suspects in the Bali bombing. The first trials in the case are expected to begin next month.

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