Jakarta–Indonesiamay finally get round to doing what many countries, including theUnited States, have long urged it to do: Formally outlaw the Al-Qaeda-linked terror group, Jemaah Islamiah. Such a move will make it easier for the Indonesian authorities to arrest and prosecute militants in the country.
MrAnsyaad Mbai, who heads the counter-terrorism desk atIndonesia's Coordinating Ministry for Political and Security Affairs, said the government intends to outlaw the group, which has beenblamed for a host of attacks and plots throughout Southeast Asia, including the 2002Balinightclub attacks.
"I am convinced that this will happen because I know President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is very concerned with this problem," he toldThe Associated Press.
"The reason this is not being done immediately is because the political situation is still very sensitive."
The Indonesian government has been reluctant to impose a formal ban on the Jemaah Islamiah – which means “Islamic community” - due to fears of a backlash from Muslim groups and political parties. These groups are suspicious that any ban may herald a broader crackdown on Islamic activitists.
However, Mr Mbai saidbanning the group – which is listed by the United Nations as a terrorist group – is essential in the fight against terror.
"We know there are many JI members who have got military training and have the ability to make bombs and use weapons who are still around, but the police cannot arrest them unless there is evidence they are involved in a particular act of terrorism," Mr Mbai said.
"If JI is proscribed as a banned organisation, then security agencies can take preventive steps," said Mr Mbai, a two-star police general known to be close to Mr Yudhoyono.
Jemaah Islamiah’s alleged spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, was sentenced to 30 months' jailearlier this month for conspiracy in theBali bombings.
Analysts have said that the prosecutors would have been able to build a stronger case against the 66-year-old cleric if they had been able to directly charge him with heading the group.
* Indonesia will outlaw Jama'ah Islamiyah, anti-terror chief says (The Jakarta Post, March 21)