Wed, 22 Jan 2003

ASEAN to set up task force to crack down on terrorism

Wahyoe Boediwardhana and Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Denpasar

The National Police said on Tuesday they would set up a joint task force with their counterparts from other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to solve the terrorist problem in Indonesia, including unraveling the connection between the Hambali-led Jamaah Islamiyah and the Oct. 12, 2003 Bali blasts.

"It is time to forge cooperation among ASEAN countries by setting up a joint task force to arrest terrorists suspected of involvement in terrorist acts in the region," National Police chief Dai Bachtiar said after receiving a donation from the State Minister for People's Welfare, Jusuf Kalla, in Bali.

He added that he suspected Hambali and his terrorist confidants, the other main suspects in the Bali blasts who are still at large, had already escaped overseas. Thus, it looked like it would be impossible for the Indonesian Police themselves to arrest them.

Meanwhile, spokesman for the Bali bombing investigating team Sr. Comr. Zainuri Lubis said that it was still uncertain whether Hambali was already abroad or not, and that the joint task force plan was not specifically aimed at hunting him.

"We're setting up a joint task force to seize Malaysian terrorist suspects like Azhari and Noordin Moch Top," he said.

The police have so far focused their attention on interrogating the suspects, preparing their case files and hunting the other suspects who are still at large.

At least 30 suspects have been arrested for their involvement in the deadly blasts in Renon, and at Paddy's Cafe and the Sari Club, where almost 200 people, mostly Australians, were killed.

Of the 30 suspects, five are prime suspects, and 21 are accomplices.

The police have obtained an important confession from key suspect Ali Imron that the Bali bombers were closely involved with JI, which has already been blacklisted by the UN.

Ali conceded that Hambali, Malaysian citizen and JI secretary Zulkifli Marzuki, Muchlas, Azhari and Noordin attended a meeting in Bangkok in February 2002 to discuss preparations for a series of bomb attacks in Indonesia and Singapore.

The police are scheduled to submit the file on prime suspect Amrozi to the government prosecutor's office in Denpasar for further processing with the files on the other main suspects to follow.

In addition, the delegates to the ASEAN police meeting also sought to implement an extradition treaty to help them crack down on terrorist cells in the region. However, it appeared that this suggestion would face problems as the countries had different legal systems.

A Malaysian delegate said that the police in Indonesia would have difficulties in seeking the extradition of Wan Min bin Wan Mat, a prime suspect in the Bali blasts, to Denpasar as this was not allowed under Malaysian law.

"We are not allowed to lend him to the Indonesian police. However, we might be able to facilitate a video-conference for him to testify before the court. But I don't know whether Indonesian law permits such a procedure," he said.

Like Malaysia, a Singaporean delegate said that it also looked impossible to enter into an extradition treaty with Indonesia as the two countries had very different legal systems.