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Indonesia: al-Qaida Terrorist Network Helping Militant Groups - 2001-12-12

The head of Indonesia's national intelligence agency says the al-Qaida terrorist network is cooperating with some militant groups in Indonesia. The comment may contradict a report by the United States government that indicates Indonesia is not among the 45 countries where the terrorist network is believed to operate.

Indonesia's national intelligence chief says foreign terrorists are in Indonesia cooperating with domestic radical groups. Lieutenant General Abdullah Hendropriyono says that includes the al-Qaida terrorist network.

General Hendropriyono says al-Qaida operatives may have links to Islamic militants in the province of Central Sulawesi, 1,600 kilometers east of the Indonesian capital. Troops have just restored calm to the region after at least ten people were killed in recent religious clashes.

Fighting between Christians and Muslims has erupted sporadically in Central Sulawesi over the past two years claiming hundreds of lives.

It is the first time authorities have said publicly that al-Qaida had links with domestic groups. The general's comments come a day after the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta released a State Department list of 45 countries where al-Qaida operatives are believed to have links.

Indonesia is not on that list.

The U.S. government says al-Qaida, and its leader Osama bin Laden, is responsible for the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

With more than 200 million people, Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country, but its government is secular. President Megawati Sukarnoputri has promised to support the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

There are a handful of radical Islamic groups in Indonesia which is overwhelmingly moderate. Some of those organizations have threatened to launch a jihad or holy war against U.S. interests in Indonesia in response to the U.S.-led bombing of Afghanistan. None have followed through on the threats. And none of the groups are classified as "terrorist" organization by the U.S. government.