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Indonesian police arrest cleric Bashir

Elite anti-terror police escort arrested radical Islamist preacher Abu Bakar Bashir (C) on arrival at police headquarters in Jakarta on August 9, 2010. Bashir is accused of providing support for extremists linked with the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, officials said. According to counter-terrorism chief at the security ministry Ansyaad Mbai, Bashir was involved in an Islamic militant training camp uncovered by police in Aceh province in February. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (UPI) Aug 10, 2010
Police in Indonesia have a week to formally charge the arrested radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir who is detained on terror charges.

Bashir, 71, is suspected of helping set up a militant Islamic training camp in the province of Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra Island and the most westerly area of the Indonesian archipelago.

The camp is reported to have supplied the people responsible for the hotel bombings in Jakarta last July.

Police picked up Bashir Monday morning at his home in Ciamis, in the western area of the southern island Java. The avuncular cleric appeared in good humor and was smiling at the cameras while security officers accompanied him outside police headquarters in Jakarta.

He denies the charges and maintains that his arrest was on the orders of the United States.

Bashir is no stranger to being arrested on terrorism charges. He served more than two years in jail before being cleared of involvement with the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, believed to be behind the 2002 Bali resort bomb attacks that left 202 dead, including 88 holidaying Australians.

In 2008 he claimed that the first bomb set off in Bali was very small. "At most it shattered glass and didn't wound people, or at most wounded them a little," he said. The main explosion was what he called "a micro-nuclear bomb, not a regular bomb ... The bomb was made by the CIA, it could be no one else."

Bashir also denies he has given spiritual leadership to members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a known terrorist group linked to al-Qaida.

He denies any connection with Jemaah Islamiyah. But he has publicly claimed sympathy for al-Qaida after the Bali bombings, saying their armed struggle was the true struggle of the people.

He also has said Indonesia should follow the strict Islamic religious Shariah laws.

In July 2008 he formed Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, what he calls a social outreach and education group for poor people.

But a recent report by security intelligence organization International Crisis Group said JAT is a vehicle mainly for maintaining Bashir in the public eye. JAT comprises many of his associates from a religious school Bashir founded in Solo city, in central Java island, as well as some members of Jemaah Islamiyah.

Police who arrested Bashir said they also are searching for a French national allegedly involved in terrorist activities in Indonesia, but gave no details.

National Police spokesman Inspector General Edward Aritonang said Bashir was arrested for his involvement in establishing the now-decimated Aceh terrorist cell that was allegedly planning Mumbai-style attacks.

Bashir is suspected of appointing religious teachers to provide spiritual guidance for the Aceh group as they trained in the province's jungles. "Bashir also funded military activity in Aceh," Aritonang said.

Four other people were arrested last weekend in a police swoop on a suspected car-bomb factory in Cibiru, near the west Javan city of Bandung. One of the arrested was a chemical engineering graduate.

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