JAKARTA – More than 200 Islamic militants from Southeast Asia have
been sent on missions to bomb Israel’s “vital interests” and countries that support the Jewish state, their leader said on Friday.
The militants have been trained to carry out suicide bombings to avenge Israel’s military strikes on the Palestinian territories and Lebanon, said Suaib Didu, chairman of the Jakarta-based ASEAN Muslim Youth Movement.
“We will limit our targets to Israel’s vital interests and those that support Israel’s aggression in Palestine and Lebanon,” Didu said. “We will not carry out attacks indiscriminately.”
Hardline militant groups in Indonesia have made claims in the past of sending volunteers to participate in conflicts overseas that have sometimes proved exaggerated.
Western countries such as the United States and Britain, as well as businesses, could be targeted unless they cease supporting Israel, he said.
Didu said the group was watching Australia’s position on the Middle East conflict.
“If John Howard makes a statement in support of Israel, he will be a target,” Didu said.
More than 3,000 people have signed up for the mission, and 217 people from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore have been dispatched abroad so far, he said.
A “show of force” of the more than 3,000 volunteers will be held on Saturday in Pontianak in West Kalimantan province on Borneo island, Didu said, adding that many of the 200-plus militants had fought with Afghanistan against the Soviets.
Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the moderate Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organization, said Thursday that threats by radical Muslim groups to send volunteers to fight Israel were just “symbolic gestures” to show solidarity with the Palestinians and Lebanese.
“There are too many obstacles for these people to travel there. It is too costly and the Israeli army is no match for them,” he told reporters.
But in Canberra, Human Services Minister Joe Hockey said Friday the government was not shrugging off reports of the plans to carry out suicide bombings.
“The minister for foreign affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs are investigating what is reported in the papers today and we are treating it very, very seriously,” Hockey told Australian television.
Australia is a staunch ally of the United States, with troops in Iraq and
Afghanistan. While it has been targeted in attacks in Indonesia, Australia has never suffered a major peacetime attack on home soil.
Australia and Indonesia strengthened cooperation on counter-terrorism following the 2002 nightclub bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, which killed 202 people, including 88 Australian tourists.