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Indonesia 'has al Qaeda camps'

Indonesian troops
Indonesia has been wracked by fighting between Christians and Muslims  

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia's intelligence chief has said international terrorists, including Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, have training camps on Sulawesi island.

Lt. Gen. Abdullah Hendropriyono told reporters on Wednesday that outsiders working with local militant groups were responsible for much of the fighting on Sulawesi, which has been wracked by fighting between Christians and Muslims.

"It is the result of cooperation between international terrorists and domestic radical groups," he told The Associated Press news agency.

Later in a radio interview, Hendropriyono said al Qaeda set up training camps on Sulawesi about two years ago but that recently activity had slowed down.

"We are monitoring al Qaeda. When they come again for training we will ambush them," he told Jakarta's El-Shinta radio station.

This is the first time Jakarta has alleged that al Qaeda is connected to sectarian bloodshed in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

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A State Department document released this week by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, listed 45 countries where al Qaeda and affiliated groups have cells.

The list, which included nearby nations such as Malaysia and the Philippines, did not name Indonesia.

'Handle on own'

But Indonesia does not need U.S. assistance to eradicate the Sulawesi camps, the intelligence chief said.

"We can handle it on our own," he said, adding the bases had not been used by terrorists involved in the attacks on the United States on September 11.

About 1,000 people have been killed on Sulawesi island in the past two years in sporadic fighting between Christians and Muslims.

In the nearby province of Maluku, about 9,000 people have died in three years of sectarian warfare.

The government, which recently dispatched about 2,000 policemen and soldiers to Sulawesi, says the situation there is now under control.

A Muslim militia group, Laskar Jihad, has been blamed for much of the recent fighting in the region.

It arrived on Sulawesi a few months ago after taking part in sectarian battles in the Maluku islands.

Some analysts have told Reuters news agency that Indonesia offers fertile ground for these networks to operate.

Indonesia is struggling to impose law and order in the face of its worst political and economic upheaval in decades.

The sprawling archipelago of more than 13,000 islands has relatively porous borders and plenty of potential hiding places, analysts say.


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