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IHT: Attack Against U.S. Widens Fears in Southeast Asia
By Michael Richardson

14/9/2001 7:56 pm Fri

[Ancaman KMM dirantau ini yang sengaja digembar-gemburkan oleh kerajaan itu akan merugikan Malaysia juga akhirnya. Pelabur tidak akan berminat untuk datang ke rantau ini. Siapakah yang akan rugi jika tidak kita sendiri?. Tohmahan kerajaan itu akan menyebabkan Amerika menyasarkan negara ini. Sekarang sudah banyak berita dunia menyebut Malaysia adalah sebahagian daripada rangkaian Osama B Laden.

Pemerhati pro-Barat sengaja memperbesarkan serangan oleh beberapa individu dan menyalahkan Islam tetapi tidak pula mempertikaikan pembunuhan beramai-ramai yang lebih dahsyat terhadap orang Islam oleh pihak tertentu (yang jelas bukan bersifat individu). Seluruh dunia membisu bila beribu-ribu umat Islam di Aceh dan Ambon disembelih hidup-hidup (termasuk di dalam masjid). Mengapa tidak disebut 'ekstrim' pula mereka yang melakukan pembunuhan ngeri itu? - Editor]

International Herald Tribune
Friday, September 14, 2001

Attack Against U.S. Widens Fears in Southeast Asia

Michael Richardson

SINGAPORE The devastating attack in the United States has intensified concerns about the spread of Muslim extremist groups with international connections in Southeast Asia.

Western and Southeast Asian officials say they have evidence of increasing connections among Muslim extremist groups in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, and between them and international terror organizations.

Officials and analysts note that growing economic hardship and unemployment in the region, political instability and chronic sectarian and separatist conflict are fueling Islamic extremism in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

As a result, Southeast Asia has become "a potentially fertile recruiting ground" for radical Muslim organizations, said Daljit Singh, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

"They are taking advantage of instability to spread the Islamic cause and try to push out America," he said. "The single most important issue that fuels religious extremism in the region is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the feeling that the international community, especially the U.S., should do more to resolve it."

Although Indonesia is a secular state, it has the world's largest Muslim population, some of whom oppose the country's close ties to the United States and demand Islamic rule for their country.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda of Indonesia said Wednesday that Indonesian authorities had thwarted two planned attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, but did not give other details.

Security was recently tightened after Washington received what it said was a credible threat against U.S. interests and citizens in Indonesia.

U.S. officials say that those who carried out the attacks in the United States on Tuesday may have had links to the Saudi militant Osama bin Laden or his Qaida group. Rohan Gunaratna, a fellow at the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrew's University in Scotland, said that Qaida had provided money and training to a few Islamic groups in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and planned to "widen and deepen" its influence in the region.

He said that Qaida was extending its influence in Southeast Asia by using the Internet, infiltrating Muslim nongovernmental organizations, sending extremist religious leaders to the region, and taking activists for training in Afghanistan, where Mr. bin Laden is based.

"The chances are very high that in the next three years, we will fight terrorism, specifically international terrorism, that enters Indonesia," the deputy chief of the Indonesian Army, Lieutenant General Kiki Syahnakri, said in a recent interview with The Australian newspaper.

He said that Indonesia wanted to strengthen cooperation with U.S. government agencies to upgrade its anti-terrorist capabilities.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia and Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia agreed at a recent meeting in Kuala Lumpur that their security agencies should cooperate closely to counter Muslim extremist groups in the region.

Shortly after they met, Muslim separatist rebels in the Indonesian province of Aceh threatened to disrupt traffic in one of the world's busiest sea lanes, the Malacca Straits, unless ships sought permission to pass.

The Indonesian police say that a small group of Malaysian Muslim militants were behind a number of bombings in Jakarta, including at two Christian churches in July, that wounded an estimated 70 people.

Last month, the police in Malaysia arrested 10 men who they said were members of an Afghan-trained militant group, Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia, that hopes to turn the country, which has a majority of Muslims among its population, into a "pure" Islamic society. Like Indonesia, Malaysia is a secular state, although Islam is the official religion.

Bin Laden said to be operating in more than 34 countries

Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden and his network, prime suspects in the terror attacks on the United States, are believed to be operating in at least 34 countries, according to a report on terrorism released on Thursday.

The report by terrorism expert Kenneth Katzman of the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service was completed just before three hijacked airplanes crashed into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington. A fourth hijacked airline plunged into a field in Pennsylvania.

Its conclusions, some of which underscore or confirm previously reported information, are all the more chilling because of Tuesday's devastating assaults in which thousands may have died.

"Signs continue to point to a decline in state sponsorship of terrorism as well as a rise in the scope of threat posed by the independent network of exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden," Katzman wrote.

Bin laden and his followers pose "an increasingly significant threat to U.S. interests in the Near East and perhaps elsewhere," he said.

U.S. allegations of past plotting by the bin Laden network "suggest that the network wants to strike within the United States itself," the report added.

Katzman said it is "highly likely" that bin Laden and his followers have acquired some of the shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles that the United States provided Muslim militants who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Bin laden, a wealthy Islamic fundamentalist now living in Afghanistan, has emerged as a prime suspect in the attacks.

He already has a $5 million reward on his head and is accused of numerous crimes against the United States, including masterminding the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 that killed more than 200 people.

Katzman said bin Laden is estimated to have about $300 million in personal financial assets with which he funds his network and as many as 3,000 Islamic militant operatives.

Cells of bin Laden's Al-Quaida (the base) network have been identified or suspected in countries throughout the Middle East and Africa, in Asian nations like Malaysia and the Philippines, in Ecuador, Bosnia, Albania, Britain, Canada and "allegedly inside the United States itself," the report said.

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