Investigators are piecing together a link between longstanding Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia and al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden.
Agus Dwikarna, officials charge, headed a militia of 2,000 Muslim fighters who brought war to once-peaceful Christian villages in Indonesia. He is now imprisoned in the Philippines. Court documents in the case cite his involvement with al-Qaeda through Omar al-Faruq, a bin Laden protégé currently in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Before their arrests, the two operated a terrorist training camp and had plans to assist Mr. bin Laden-prior to Sept. 11-in relocating his own base to Southeast Asia.
In central Sulawesi and Ambon, fighting between Muslims and Christians spiked in 1998-99. More than 10,000 people in Ambon were killed during that time. Christians have long suspected that Saudi money fueled the import of Muslim extremist armies to the islands. But no one felt pressed to investigate until the United States launched the war on terrorism and used carrot-and-stick aid packages on countries in Southeast Asia, like Indonesia and Malaysia, encouraging them to police their own backyards.
Despite a peace pact brokered by the government, sporadic clashes continue. At least five people were killed and hundreds of homes burned in attacks on Christian villages last week. On July 27 two bombs exploded in Christian areas of Ambon, killing one person and injuring over 50.