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SLUG: 2-293928 Indonedia / Terror Q + A
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=09/11/02

TYPE=Q&A

NUMBER=2-293928

TITLE=INDONESIA / TERROR Q + A

BYLINE=SCOTT BOBB / JENNIFER O'NEIL

DATELINE=JAKARTA / HONG KONG

CONTENT=

INTRO: Countries around Asia marked the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. But the day was fairly quiet in Indonesia - where there are mixed feeling about the U-S led war on terrorism. V-O-A's editor in Hong Kong, Jennifer O'Neil, spoke with correspondent Scott Bobb in Jakarta about the mood there.

TEXT:

JO: Scott, tell us, there have been a number of official memorial services and remembrances throughout Asia. It seems that the one major event in Jakarta - which would be a U-S Embassy commemoration - was canceled. The city seems fairly quiet. Can you tell us has been going on there today in terms of marking the 9-11 anniversary?

SB: It has been a somber day, but life has gone on as usual, with people going to work and traffic jams during rush hour. The anniversary of the attacks was marked in the newspapers with editorials and reports from around the world. As you mentioned, the one commemoration service was canceled due to a security threat. The embassy has been closed since the day before the anniversary because of threats, credible threats. What form those threats took was not revealed for security reasons.

JO: In Jakarta, did the government or President Megawati issue any kind of statements? Was there any official reaction to this anniversary?

SB: As the business day closed there had been no official statement. Jakarta is in a day of election. There is an election for the local governor here and that has taken up a great deal of official attention. Nevertheless, I have spoken to a lot of people, including Muslims religious leaders and officials, and there was a sense of condolence and sympathy for the victims of those attacks and a feeling that things were being done - a working behind the scenes. The moderate Muslims - who far out number the radicals in this country and most others - were working behind the scenes to try to moderate their fellow believers. That said there was a almost a unanimous belief that the U-S threatened attacks on Iraq would do no good to the cause against terrorism. Rather it would radicalize people.

JO: In the last year , there have been a number of concerns that as terrorists from the al-Qaida network were fleeing U-S action in Afghanistan, that they were looking for other locations from which to operate. And Indonesia was a prime target - especially since there were some rather small, but extreme Islamic groups there that might host them. Give us a little background on this anniversary on what has gone on this year in terms of al-Qaida or other terrorist suspects in Indonesia.

SB: The people I've spoken to - and I just spoke today with the secretary-general and one of the chairman of a group that gathers over 60 Muslim organizations, ranging from very moderate and very large to some fairly extreme groups - and there feeling was that, yes, perhaps, possibly there are al-Qaida elements in Indonesia. But the sentiment I heard over and over again was "show us the evidence." There has been no evidence yet that has been presented. But until we see that, all you're doing is popularizing these individuals - turning them into heroes and making them more radical. This of course is disputed by U-S officials and officials in Singapore and Malaysia - who say they have found - in fact there are Indonesians - who are in detention in Malaysia and Sinagpore.

JO: Can you bring us up to date on the government's position. Last year, President Megawati Sukarnoputri was the first leader of a Muslim country to visit the United States after the attacks. And she was quick to offer Indonesian support for the U-S-led war on terrorism. What is the status of Indonesian support? You mentioned earlier that they think any pre-emptive strike against Iraq is a bad idea. But where does that leave the U-S-Indonesian relationship?

SB: Relations have warmed in the area of security and that there is a greater deal of cooperation in information sharing. U-S officials have said - and the U-S ambassador spoke to journalists yesterday - saying things are being done that you necessarily will not hear about or read about in the newspapers. The Indonesian government wants to be discreet in this, because it does have 200-million Muslims, who sympathize even with radicals, if they feel they are attacked unjustly. There is a feeling of not wanting to antagonize these groups. Nevertheless, one gets the feeling that there is a heightened sense of surveillance, or watching over what's happening and questioning of groups that could be perceived as becoming involved in any form of terrorism.

JO: Okay, thank you Scott. That is Southeast Asia Correspondent Scott Bobb speaking to us from Jakarta.

NEB/HK/SB/JO



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