U.S.: ABU SAYYAF COULD TARGET AMERICANS -- EVEN IN INDONESIA

MANILA, August 30, 2003 (STAR) The United States said this Thursday, as it issued a warning that terrorists could be plotting new attacks against its citizens and interests in Indonesia, and warned Islamic rebels may also try to kidnap Americans.

In an updated travel warning for the country, the State Department said that the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) group still had Americans in its sights after attacks on a Bali nightclub last year and a US-run hotel in Jakarta earlier this month.

The warning also cited "a risk of kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the border areas of Indonesia near Malaysia and the Philippines."

"The Abu Sayyaf has previously carried out kidnappings in Malaysia and the Philippines, and the group has the operational capability to do so in Indonesia, also," the State Department said.

The latter caution about the risk of kidnappings in non-border areas of Indonesia was not contained in the previous travel warning for Indonesia, issued on Aug. 8.

The travel warning repeated the US contention that the group has links to al-Qaeda.

"The terrorist attacks in Jakarta and Bali, which took place in areas with large numbers of foreign tourists, clearly indicate that a security threat extends to private American citizens," the warning said.

"The US government believes extremist elements may be planning additional attacks targeting US interests in Indonesia, particularly US government officials and facilities," it said.

It particularly mentioned so called "soft-targets" like bars, nightclubs and churches, which could attract terrorists since US installations were better secured.

Thursday’s was the first such warning issued since the arrest of alleged JI terror chief Hambali in Thailand on Aug. 11. He is now in US custody at a secret location.

In an interview with The STAR on Tuesday, US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone said his government will give the Philippines access to Indonesian terror suspect Hambali "at the right time, depending on the circumstances."

Indonesia and Thailand are seeking access to Hambali, believed to be the No. 2 man of the Southeast Asian Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Ricciardone said that in interrogating Hambali, the US hopes to save more lives and build up legal cases by gathering evidence "that can be used against him.

The State Department also reiterated US concerns about foreign citizens in the Indonesian region of Aceh, where fighting has raged between government troops and separatist rebels. — AFP, Roel Pareño


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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