Wed, 24 Sep 2003

Pakistan arrests four more JI suspects

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Pakistan has arrested four more Indonesian students suspected of having links to Southeast Asian terror group Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), a senior security official said on Tuesday.

"We have arrested four more Indonesian students from Karachi in the last 24 hours," the official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

"All of them have links with JI."

Pakistan is also holding the brother of alleged JI operations chief Hambali, plus another Indonesian named Mohammad Saifuddin and 13 Malaysian students. All were arrested in raids on Islamic boarding schools in the crowded port city this month.

They had been under surveillance for several weeks and were arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities, officials have said.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani government has pledged to give Indonesia wide access to closely monitor the ongoing investigation into the Indonesian students, according to a government official.

Foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said here on Tuesday that Pakistani Ambassador to Indonesia Syed Mustafa Anwer Husein made promised access would be given after the ministry summoned the ambassador to explain the Indonesian students' arrests.

Indonesia summoned the ambassador amid increasing calls for the government to protect the two Indonesian students.

Hambali's brother Rusman "Gun Gun" Gunawan was arrested in the first week of September, while the 13 Malaysians and Saifuddin were arrested on Saturday.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the arrests were based on information extracted from Hambali after his arrest in Thailand on Aug. 11. He is in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location.

Hambali is considered Asia's point man for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network as well as JI operations chief.

Pakistan has primarily charged Gun Gun and Saifuddin with immigration offenses, according to Marty. However, he added that Pakistan had extended the investigation to the students' activities, which were found to be contrary to Pakistan's national interests.

"But beyond concerns of immigration violations or activities considered contrary to Pakistan's interests, we demanded access to the students to monitor their condition and their cases. And Pakistan agreed to it," he said.

Differing from the Malaysian deputy prime minister's statement, Marty said the arrests were based on the Pakistani government's decision and were not made at the request of Indonesia.

On the day of the first two arrests, Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman said the arrests were made in pursuance of Pakistan's aim to investigate terrorists and terrorist suspects.

Both students, according to a Pakistani intelligence source, said they were guilty of failing to renew their visas and insisted they had entered Pakistan on scholarships from the Pakistani government.

Indonesian authorities in Pakistan learned about Gun Gun's arrest on Sept. 4 from an assistant registrar of Jamia Abi Bakar Islamia University in Karachi, where he was reportedly studying. They were also informed of Saifuddin's arrest from a friend of his at the university.

Vice President Hamzah Haz said that the government would send a team of lawyers to defend the students' rights.

"I have asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to use its diplomatic channels to monitor the problem ...," the Vice President said after opening a workshop of a Muslim group at his office.

"Most important is that the arrests are not linked to religious issues and do not raise new problems in our own country," he added.