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Indonesia Directly Implicates Jemaah Islamiyah in Bali Bombing - 2003-01-28

Indonesia's national police chief has for the first time directly implicated the Southeast Asia terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah, in the October 12 Bali bomb attack. He also says detained Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir had given his blessing to JI's violent operations.

General Da'ai Bachtiar told Parliament Tuesday the Bali bombing was originally planned at a meeting of the Jemaah Islamiyah leadership in Bangkok in February last year - eight months before the explosion.

The national police chief says it had been decided at the meeting to attack U.S. interests in Indonesia and Singapore. The Bali bomb exploded October 12 outside a nightclub packed with Western tourists, killing more than 190 people.

This marks the first time Indonesian officials have directly implicated the JI terrorist organization in the Bali case. Previously they have said that some of the 20 suspects in custody had links to or were JI members.

General Bachtiar went on to say that Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual leader of JI, had given his approval to JI's operations.

Mr. Bashir has been charged with treason in a series of church bombings in 2000 and is awaiting trial. Until this week, Indonesian authorities have not linked him to the Bali bombing. Mr. Bashir has consistently denied any links to terrorism.

The United States says that Jemaah Islamiyah is the Southeast Asian arm of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network and that many JI leaders had traveled to Afghanistan for training and funding.

The group is aims to establish an Islamic super state comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and parts of the southern Philippines.

The involvement of JI in the Bali attack confirms the worst fears of terrorism experts. They say it means that extremists in Southeast Asia have linked up with a global organization with the finances and expertise to wage a long campaign of terror against targets of choice.