Radical Cleric Bashir Arrested Over ‘Terror’

JAKARTA

Police have arrested a radical Islamist preacher accused of providing support for extremists linked with the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Abu Bakar Bashir is accused of involvement in an Islamic militant training camp uncovered by police in Aceh province in February, said counterterrorism chief at the security ministry Ansyaad Mbai.

“He had been involved in terror network in Aceh. As we know, that terror group in Aceh is linked with Jemaah Islamiyah and many other extremist groups in our country,” Mbai told AFP, confirming the arrest.

“One of the allegations is that he provided funding to the Aceh military training. It’s one of many allegations weighed against him,” he added.

The arrest was made early on Monday in the district of Ciamis, West Java, a police source said.

Bashir appeared calm as he arrived at the Jakarta Police headquarters.

“This is God’s grace to reduce sin. This is engineered by America,” he told reporters before being led away by armed anti-terror police.

Bashir was conducting a Koran reading session when he was arrested, his lawyer Achmad Cholid said.

“We’re still finding out what the police charges are before stating our position on this matter – if they’re related to terror activities, what exactly they are,” Cholid told AFP.

Bashir, 71, is known for his hardline rhetoric and has been accused of providing spiritual leadership to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a claim he denies.

He served almost 26 months for conspiracy over the 2002 terror attacks on Bali nightspots that killed more than 200 people, before being cleared and released in 2006.

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