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U.S. Firms Targeted in Jakarta

August 11, 2003|Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The Jemaah Islamiah extremist network, accused of bombing nightclubs in Bali and the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, is suspected of planning attacks on U.S. oil companies and other targets in the Indonesian capital.

Among the potential targets are the Jakarta headquarters of Halliburton Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Unocal Corp., according to a confidential document reviewed by The Times. Indonesian police officials warned at least seven U.S. companies last month that their names were found in papers uncovered during a raid on the house of suspected Jemaah Islamiah members in the central Javan city of Semarang.

During the raid, investigators found a ton of explosives and uncovered evidence that Jemaah Islamiah was planning to bomb targets in the district of Jakarta where the JW Marriott Hotel was located. At the time, police did not identify the Marriott as a target and were unable to prevent the attack Tuesday that killed 11 people and injured about 150.

Indonesian police and U.S. officials declined this weekend to discuss any potential targets of the group, but the U.S. State Department issued an advisory Friday warning Americans of the danger of new attacks in Indonesia.

"The U.S. government believes extremist elements may be planning additional attacks targeting U.S. interests in Indonesia, particularly U.S. government officials and facilities," the department warned.

Asmar Latin Sani, who drove the van loaded with explosives to the Marriott, was identified Sunday as a graduate of Al Mukmin, the central Javan school that has been a breeding ground for the Jemaah Islamiah movement.

Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, a co-founder of the school, has been identified by authorities as the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah. He is being tried in Jakarta for treason for allegedly approving a series of church bombings and plotting the assassination of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

About 3,000 people rallied Sunday in support of Bashir in the central Javan city of Solo. One of his followers delivered a speech on Bashir's behalf in which the cleric demanded that Indonesia adopt Islamic law.

"Muslim people, do not be afraid of being called a terrorist or a fundamentalist," Bashir's speech said.

Authorities say Jemaah Islamiah is affiliated with Al Qaeda and that it was responsible for the Bali nightclub bombing in October that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

The number of fatalities in the Marriott bombing rose to 11 on Sunday with the death of an Indonesian taxi driver who had been injured by the explosion. The figure includes Sani, the driver of the minivan.

Police say two men arrested in the Bali bombing admitted recruiting Sani for the Marriott attack. They were able to identify Sani from a severed head found at the scene.

Police have recovered documents indicating that the Bali and Marriott attacks were part of a plan by Jemaah Islamiah to create chaos and bring down the government, opening the way for militant Muslims to establish an Islamic state. Eventually, the militants hope the Islamic state would grow to encompass other parts of Southeast Asia with large Muslim populations, including Malaysia, the southern Philippines and southern Thailand.

Most Muslims in Indonesia are moderate, but Jemaah Islamiah has introduced radical tactics more commonly seen in the Middle East, including the use of suicide bombers. Authorities fear that the group has stockpiled large amounts of explosives, weapons and ammunition for use in attacks in the capital.

Evidence uncovered in last month's raids indicates that Jemaah Islamiah was considering nearly 60 bomb targets and may change its tactics to carry out smaller, more frequent attacks.

In the Semarang raid, police found two documents that mentioned oil companies. One was a business directory in which someone had marked the names of a dozen energy companies. The second was a more recent, handwritten list that named seven U.S. firms: Halliburton, Exxon Mobil, Unocal, Caltex Indonesia, ConocoPhillips, Union Texas and Premier Oil.

Police also found a hand-drawn map showing the location of Halliburton's office in south Jakarta.

Before the Marriott bombing, representatives of the oil companies attended a briefing at the U.S. Embassy where an Indonesian police official outlined the threat posed by Jemaah Islamiah.

Spokesmen for Unocal and ExxonMobil acknowledged this weekend that they had received warnings from the police and U.S. officials.

"We received that information," said Unocal spokesman Sutanto Tatang. "Our company is always on alert. It's not something shocking to us."

Francisco Suarez, president of Halliburton Indonesia, declined to comment, saying the company did not discuss security matters. Officials of the other companies could not be reached.

Police also uncovered information in the Semarang raid revealing plots to bomb a supermarket and kill five politicians, a businessman and Christian police officers.

Police Brig. Gen. Gorries Mere, who is in charge of the investigation into Jemaah Islamiah, declined to take telephone calls from The Times.

Police spokesman Prasetyo, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, denied that police have found evidence singling out U.S. companies.

"There is no specific target," he said. "The document confiscated in Semarang only showed they plan to blow up some strategic areas in Jakarta. That they targeted America's assets specifically was not mentioned."

But one senior Western diplomat said that the United States has been warning for months of possible terror attacks in Indonesia. The Marriott bombing was not a surprise, he said, and the threat level remains high.

"This is completely in line with what we consider the threat to be," the diplomat said. "There are more of them out there and their capabilities are out there. We are still very worried about this threat."

*

Sari Sudarsono of The Times' Jakarta Bureau contributed to this report from Solo.

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