Indonesian authorities say they have found evidence that Islamic militants captured in a series of recent raids had planned to kill President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other top officials.
VOA's Kate Woodsome asked VOA's Brian Padden in Jakarta about the alleged terror plot.
Brian Padden: "Today [Friday] they released intelligence they've gathered from some of the suspects that said these terrorists, these Indonesian militants were planning a series of attacks, including Mumbai style hotel seiges targeting foreigners and an assault on the president at an independence ceremony. They also said that there were plans underway to assassinate the U.S. president, Barack Obama, when he comes to visit in June."
Kate Woodsome: The plot revealed today is linked to a group called al-Qaida Indonesia in Aceh.
Brian Padden: "Yes, this is a group that the government found out about at the beginning of this year. Local people in Aceh reported that there was some strange activity happening up in the northern part of Sumatra. And when police investigated it, they found that there was a Jihadi training camp. They raided the camp. They arrested a number of suspects, killed some and the intelligence that they got from these series of raids revealed a whole new terrorist movement here in Indonesia. In the past, the terrorists have been focused exclusively on inciting fear by bombing targets that were frequented by foreigners.
This new group wanted to change the discussion. They wanted to change the topic. They wanted to have more of a focus on getting public support for an implementation of Islamic Sharia law. And to do that, they wanted to move away from broad bombings that also killed, through collateral damage, a large number of Muslims, innocent Muslims. So, their tactic was to focus more targeted assassinations."
Kate Woodsome: "How vast is their network?"
Brian Padden: "Anti-terrorism experts are saying that the government has an upper hand. That there isn't a large number of active terrorists in Indonesia. But there should be some concern that these people have been allowed to operate and that they've been allowed to reorganize in the years since the last wave of bombings which happened just a few years ago."
Kate Woodsome: "The government has been conducting a series of raids on training camps and has made a number of arrests so, they're responding to threats. But what are they doing to prevent the spread of extremism?"
Brian Padden: "Indonesia has not declared a war on terror. They are trying to manage the problem of terrorism as a democracy and as a police oriented problem. So those that are involved in terrorism here don't just go to jail. They go on trial for their crimes and whatever the sentence is that they have to serve after it is served, they are free to go back into the community. So there has been some criticism of this. But on the other hand, many people believe that this open prosecution of terrorism suspects has been the basis why the general public in Indonesia has totally rejected this kind of extremist behavior because they have seen these people say in public trials say that, yes, they bomb their fellow Muslim citizens."