Al-Qaida reportedly plotted to kill Indonesian president

Secret U.S. document quotes S.E. Asia terrorist

September 18, 2002|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Al-Qaida is responsible for a series of deadly church bombings in Indonesia and plotted the assassination of President Megawati Sukarnoputri, according to the confession of a top agent from the terrorist network caught here.

Omar Faruq, a Kuwaiti who described himself as al-Qaida's senior representative in Southeast Asia, said the group hoped to trigger a religious civil war in Indonesia that would lead to the formation of a "pure Islamic state," according to a confidential U.S. document obtained yesterday by the Los Angeles Times.

Faruq's statements indicate that al-Qaida has been much more active in Indonesia than the government has been willing to acknowledge. Top officials have repeatedly denied that terrorists have been operating in Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic country.

At the same time, Faruq's confession suggests that the terrorists have had a high failure rate in Indonesia. Assassination and bomb plots were either bungled by the operatives or foiled by security measures taken to protect U.S. facilities, according to an electronic copy of the document summarizing his interrogation.

Faruq said he was sent to Southeast Asia by top al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan to plan "large-scale attacks" against U.S. interests in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Indonesian intelligence agents arrested Faruq in early June south of Jakarta, the capital, and handed him over to the United States. He was taken to a third country, reportedly Afghanistan, for interrogation.

One U.S. official said the document is "an accurate report" of what Faruq told U.S. agents during his interrogation. U.S. authorities are trying to corroborate his statements.

On Sept. 9, Faruq told his interrogators that he had set in motion a plot to bomb U.S. embassies in Asia to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

After at least one other al-Qaida operative in custody confirmed his statement, the United States shut its embassies in Indonesia, Malaysia and several other countries and declared an "orange" alert, the second-highest on a scale of five.

This week, Time magazine reported many details of Faruq's confession, including two plots against Megawati and the establishment of a school on the island of Borneo to train Islamic militants. The magazine said its report was based on a secret CIA document and regional intelligence reports.

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