Indonesia can no longer ignore threat of terrorism

Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2002

The deadly bombing of a popular tourist spot on Bali leaves little room for Indonesian officials to deny that terrorism is a problem in their country.

While the car bomb that killed 188 people has yet to be definitively linked to a specific group, the explosion clearly took careful planning and technological sophistication.

And there are ample signs that point to al-Qaida. The bombing took place on the second anniversary of the suicide bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, which has been linked to al-Qaida. Traces of the same C4 plastic explosives used in the Cole attack were found at the scene of this bombing. Among the suspects sought by Indonesian police are two Arabs thought to be connected to al-Qaida. ...

The United States has -- along with other nations -- urged Indonesia to pay attention to terrorist activity within its borders, to little avail. Before the recent attack, Indonesian officials downplayed the threat of terrorism and paid little heed to international warnings.

But this bombing has jolted Indonesia out of its dangerous state of denial. Now, officials are talking about giving Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri the authority to impose by decree an anti-terrorism law that had been languishing. The government has also welcomed investigators from other countries to help track down those responsible for the bombing. ...

This was a necessary realization. The United States has worried for some time about Islamic terrorist groups encroaching on Asia. Indonesia's vulnerability is its geography. With 17,000 islands, it's a country that has difficulty controlling entry. That makes it ideal for terrorists seeking a hideout or a base of operation. ...

Indonesia has received a tragic wake-up call. Its officials can't afford to hit the snooze button again.

-- The Times-Picayune, New Orleans

Oct. 19

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