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U.S. to Add Indonesian Group to List of Terrorist Organizations

October 23, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government will designate the Islamic militant group suspected of carrying out a deadly car bombing in Bali on Oct. 12 a terrorist organization, State Department officials said Tuesday.

Jemaah Islamiah has been blamed for bombings throughout Southeast Asia, and U.S. officials say the group has ties to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network.

The group seeks to create a fundamentalist Islamic state comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the southern Philippines. Some U.S. officials say the group has been trying to open a new front of terrorism against the United States.

The designation will make it illegal for Americans to donate money to the group and will prevent its members from obtaining visas to enter the United States. The department asserted earlier this year in its annual report on terrorism that Jemaah Islamiah members were tied to Al Qaeda.

Thirty-four other organizations are on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.

The move represents another public acknowledgment by the Bush administration that Indonesia is plagued by terrorism. President Megawati Sukarnoputri's government has sought to play down such connections for fear of driving off the foreign investment that it badly needs.

The car bombing on the vacation island of Bali killed nearly 200 people and increased pressure on Indonesia to go after suspected terrorists.

Besides the U.S., several of Indonesia's neighbors, notably Singapore, have been pushing for Megawati's government to crack down on militants. But authorities have treated the subject gingerly, for fear of offending public opinion in the world's most populous Muslim country.

The U.S. move comes just after the formal arrest of Jemaah Islamiah's alleged leader, Abu Bakar Bashir. He is accused of helping plan a series of church bombings in Indonesia in 2000.

In a sign of shifting opinion within Indonesia, two large moderate Muslim groups have called this week for the government to take measures against Islamic militants suspected of violence.

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