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Megawati Sukarnoputri  Acknowledges Terrorism Has Taken Root in Indonesia - 2003-08-01

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has warned her countrymen that Indonesia is now home to international terrorists. The comments represent a major turn-around for Ms. Megawati and her government. Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has rarely discussed terrorism in Indonesia publicly, and until last October her government denied that it existed in the country at all.

On Friday, 10 months after the deadly bombing on the resort island of Bali, she acknowledged that terrorism has taken root in the country. Ms. Megawati said the cracking of this terror plot indicates that Indonesia has not just become a target of international terrorism, but is a home to its actors as well.

Two-hundred-two people died on October 12 on the resort island of Bali when two bombs were detonated in a crowded tourist district. More than 30 people have been arrested in connection with the attack. Police have blamed the attack on Jemaah Islamiyah, or J.I., a radical Muslim group with links to the al-Qaida terror network. The alleged spiritual leader of J.I. and many of its members are Indonesians.

Ms. Megawati made her comments in a speech opening the annual session of the People's Consultative Assembly, Indonesia's highest legislative body. The assembly meets briefly every August to evaluate the government's performance.

In her speech, Ms. Megawati also defended the government's decision to impose martial law in the northern province of Aceh in May. That move was made after the collapse of a peace agreement between the government and rebels of the Free Aceh Movement, which is fighting for independence for the province.

Ms. Megawati acknowledged that mistakes had been made by police and soldiers in Aceh. But she praised the security forces for the work they have done so far since the declaration of martial law.

She said the government wants to lift martial law in the province, but the rebels first have to halt their 27-year insurgency.

Ms. Megawati stressed that the government has repeatedly urged the leaders of the Free Aceh Movement to lay down their arms and return to normal lives. She urged assembly members to work harder to end corruption, and to eradicate poverty in the country.