Indonesian Islamic cleric denies responsibility for deadly Bali nightclub bombing


The Associated Press

10/14/02 7:43 AM

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- A radical Indonesian

Islamic cleric, accused of being a key terror suspect

in the world's most populous Muslim nation, flatly

denied responsibility Monday for a massive nightclub

bombing that killed 188 foreign tourists in Bali. 

"All the allegations against me are groundless. I

challenge them to prove anything," said Abu Bakar

Bashir, the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, a group that

other governments insist is linked to the al-Qaida

terror network. 

"I suspect that the bombing was engineered by the

United States and its allies to justify allegations

that Indonesia is a base for terrorists," he told The

Associated Press in telephone interview from Solo, a

city in central Java. 

Indonesia's defense minister, Matori Abdul Djalil,

blamed al-Qaida for the attack, saying the government

was "sure" of its involvement. But he presented no

evidence to back up the charge. 

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has

identified Jemaah Islamiyah as the prime suspect. Many

of the dead and wounded were Australian vacationers. 

Jemaah Islamiyah allegedly plotted a series of bomb

attacks against the U.S., British and Australian

embassies last winter and other Western targets in

neighboring Singapore. 

According to U.S. security officials, Jemaah Islamiyah

resembles al-Qaida in its organization and like

al-Qaida, operates across international boundaries.

The group, which seeks to establish a pan-Islamic

state in Southeast Asia, is believed to have cells in

Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines,

Myanmar and Thailand. 

The United States has been seeking to enlist Indonesia

as a partner in the war on terror. The country has

arrested several suspects and shared intelligence, but

ignores U.S. calls for the arrest of other suspected

terrorists, including Bashir. 

Indonesian police declined to say Monday whether any

action would be taken against Bashir. 

"We are still investigating. I cannot saying anything

about anyone, including him," said national police

spokesman, Maj. Gen. Saleh Saaf. 

In the past, Bashir has denied that he is a terrorist

or has links with terrorism. He has warned that

jailing him would provoke the ire of many Muslims, who

make up about 90 percent of Indonesia's 210 million


Copyright 2002 Associated Press.


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