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Indonesia on Terror's Trail

August 08, 2003

Painstaking police work and international cooperation paid off when a judge on Thursday convicted a terrorist involved in the October bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali that killed 202 people. But more such investigative work and tough security measures are still needed, as was made clear this week with another deadly bombing, at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.

After his conviction in the Bali blast, Amrozi bin H. Nurhasyim shrugged off his death sentence, laughed and gave the thumbs-up sign. At trial, he admitted he helped plan and carry out the bombing and he denounced whites and Jews; that should outrage Indonesians, who pride themselves on their practice of a moderate interpretation of Islam. Investigators said Amrozi belonged to Jemaah Islamiah, an Al Qaeda affiliate hoping to establish an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.

Bali Police Chief I Made Mangku Pastika deserves credit for running an investigation that found and traced an identification number on a van that Amrozi supplied to carry the bomb. The United States, Australia and other nations provided technical assistance to Pastika's force.

The arrest of Amrozi and about three dozen others in the Bali attacks belies Indonesia's reputation as a nation that denies that terrorists dwell within its borders. Pastika acknowledged "widespread doubts" about the existence of Jemaah Islamiah in Indonesia and said the arrests should crush the skepticism.

Investigators said Tuesday's truck bombing outside the Marriott hotel, which killed a still unknown number and injured about 160 people, also might be the work of Jemaah Islamiah. The government of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has shown commendable resolve in denouncing the terrorist group and hunting its members. But the attack on a hotel the U.S. ambassador calls "an American symbol" shows how difficult it is to eradicate loosely organized groups of terrorists and the need for sharing technology and intelligence among nations.

Indonesia must be especially wary of possible attacks intended to exact revenge for the conviction of Amrozi and to disrupt future trials. The verdict should be regarded as one victory in a long war.

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