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Indonesia: A haven for terrorists?

No nation in ASEAN is openly critical of Indonesia, which survived an economic meltdown in 1997
No nation in ASEAN is openly critical of Indonesia, which survived an economic meltdown in 1997  

From Maria Ressa
CNN Jakarta Bureau Chief

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is on his way to Indonesian after signing a terror pact with Southeast Asian nations in Brunei.

Despite calling Indonesia a safe haven for terrorists, however, the United States seems set to reopen military ties, cut after the violence in East Timor in 1999.

After September 11, officials in the region say Ambon became the new Afghanistan for many Muslim fighters.

Spanish court documents say Indonesian Parlindungan Siregar arranged for several hundred al Qaeda operatives from Europe to travel to Indonesia for training.

Intelligence documents from Southeast Asia obtained by CNN say that training camps funded by al Qaeda helped fuel Muslim-Christian violence which has killed nearly 10,000 people since 1999 in Ambon in Indonesia's Maluku Islands.

Maria Ressa reports on the dilemma facing ASEAN in defining terror
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The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) 
Terror in the Philippines 
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"They were kinetically inspired by the war in Afghanistan. Now without Afghanistan, they use Ambon in the Malukus as the new battleground," says Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Indonesia refused to answer Singapore's accusations -- except to say the conflict in Ambon has been contained.

"I don't think Indonesia is a fertile ground for terrorism," commented Hassan Wirajuda, Indonesia's Foreign Minister. "We do what we need to do."

Since September 11, Indonesia has arrested and deported two al Qaeda operatives. One is now in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

But Indonesia's critics point out another man, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, is operating freely in Indonesia.

He is wanted by Singapore and Malaysia, who call him the spiritual head of al Qaeda's network in Southeast Asia.

Still, no nation in ASEAN is openly critical of Indonesia, which survived an economic meltdown in 1997.

"So all these things, while it is welcome, it has also inundated and created impediments and obstacles for you to just freely arrest people," says Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar.

In fact, most at this year's ASEAN meetings asked the United States to reopen military-to-military ties -- which were cut after the violence in East Timor in 1999.

"It's necessary to re-establish these ties for the security of East Asia, not only of Southeast Asia, but East Asia," commented Domingo Siazon of the Philippine Special Envoy.

That's exactly the news Colin Powell may bring to Jakarta on Thursday.

Although human rights activists say the Indonesian military must be held accountable for human rights violations, others point out a strong Indonesian military is key not only for the security of the region, but for the success of the war on terror.




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