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Indonesian Radical Cleric Arrested for Suspected Ties to Militant Group


Indonesian police have arrested radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir for alleged involvement with a new militant network. Bashir was convicted of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings, but the Indonesian Supreme Court later overturned the conviction. Police say Bashir's arrest is part of series of measures taken to prevent terrorist plots.

Indonesia's National Police spokesman Edward Aritonang announced the arrest of Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir for his involvement with the terrorist group al-Qaida in Aceh.

He says Bashir was involved in training, selecting leaders, planning terrorist attacks and raising money for the group.

Bashir is considered the spiritual leader of the Southeast Asia terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the al-Qaida-linked group responsible for the 2002 bombings on Indonesia's resort island of Bali. More than two hundred people died in that attack, many of them Western tourists.

Al-Qaida in Aceh is a relatively new group made up of disaffected members of JI, who feel it has become too passive.

Bashir advocates the creation of an Islamic state in Indonesia but denies any links to terrorists.

The cleric had been arrested twice in the past for involvement with terrorist attacks, and spent two and a half years in prison. But in 2006 the Supreme Court overturned his conviction.

In February police raided a training camp in the northern province of Aceh operated by al-Qaida in Aceh, and arrested many of its members.

Security Analyst Ken Conboy with Risk Management Advisory says authorities have known for some time about Bashir's involvement with al-Qaida in Aceh.

"When they found that terrorist camp over in Aceh, several of the people in the camp were affiliated with Abu Bakar Bashir's group, and the people at that camp were apparently planning for various kinds of attacks against a wide range of targets," he said. "So there was a lot of talk at that time that they were going to work their way back up the food chain and arrest Abu Bakar Bashir."

Police also arrested five other terror suspects and confiscated a significant number of explosives in West Java.

Authorities say al-Qaida in Aceh was planning attacks on police stations, international hotels and embassies. They also say there was a plot to assassinate Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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