Terrorism threats in Indonesia worry US officials

The discovery of a militant training camp in Indonesia, along with persistent terrorist attacks there, have increased US concerns.

Last Updated: Nov 07, 2010, 22:02 PM IST

Washington: The discovery of a militant
training camp in Indonesia, along with persistent terrorist
attacks there, have increased US concerns that extremists are
regrouping and eyeing Western targets in a country long viewed
as a counterterrorism success story.

With President Barack Obama set to begin a visit
Tuesday to the world`s most populous Muslim country, there is
renewed attention on terrorists in Indonesia who in the past
year appeared to be banding together into a new
al Qaeda-influenced insurgency.

Recent Pentagon moves to renew a training programme
with Indonesia`s special forces and bolster military
assistance show that the Obama administration believes the
country needs more help tracking and rooting out insurgents,
particularly those who rejoin the fight once they are released
from jail.

The US has praised Indonesia`s efforts to crack down
on terrorists. Government police and military authorities have
captured or killed more than 100 terrorists over the past
year.

US defense officials, however, worry about the overall
threat. They`re watching for any signs of movement or
increased communications between Indonesian extremists and
al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Obama`s long-promised visit to the nation where he
lived from age 6 to 10 comes as US defense officials said
Indonesia has exhibited both the will and the ability to
pursue extremists.

That includes developing an aggressive rehabilitation
programme, as well as a consistent string of arrests, these
officials said. Several US defense and counterterrorism
officials spoke about the threats on condition of anonymity to
discuss intelligence information.

But they also are concerned that some jailed militants
have returned to the fight after their release. That raises
questions about how effective the rehabilitation programme is
and how well authorities are tracking militants once they are
free.

"There is a hard core that are not reformable," agreed
Sidney Jones, an expert on the region and analyst with the
Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

The discovery of a terrorist training camp in Aceh
Province this year heightened US fears that there may be other
emerging threats in the country`s remote regions that
Indonesia has failed to ferret out.

According to Indonesian authorities, the Aceh group
was plotting assassinations or attacks similar to the one in
Mumbai, India, in 2008. While recent attacks in Indonesia have
focused on government and law enforcement, several high
profile strikes in the past eight years have targeted Western
interests.

PTI