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Catholics, Others Applaud Anti-Terror Raid On Suspected Bombing Mastermind


November 11 2005

Local Catholics and national Religious leaders in Indonesia have commended police for tracking down a prime terror suspect, who died in a raid, but say further action is needed.

Father Laurensius Heru Susanto, vicar general of Malang diocese, thanked police on behalf of local Catholics for their hard work in combating terrorism. His diocese is based in Malang, 660 kilometers east of Jakarta and just southeast of Batu, where police on Nov. 9 raided a house rented by Azahari bin Husin and associates. Azahari has been linked to the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization, and to bombings in Bali and Jakarta.

Father Susanto told UCA News the next day that the police operation did "not significantly disturb Catholics in the diocese, including 4,000 parishioners of Good Shepherd Church in Batu and Religious in local convents."

The hilly area of Batu has several Religious houses belonging to Carmelite, Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord, Congregation of the Passion, Divine Word, Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus communities.

Philipus Neri, a Catholic youth living about 50 meters from the house where the country´s most-wanted man was staying, said he was shocked to hear explosions on Nov. 9. "Hearing the gunfire and explosions, I immediately locked myself in my bedroom," he told UCA News. He said he was "happy to hear of the confirmation that Azahari was killed" and urged police to continue their hunt for other terrorists.

Neri said police had earlier informed him and other local people about an impending raid and had asked them to lock themselves in their homes. After his electricity supply was cut off, he went outside and found a police cordon. The police informed him that they were raiding a house rented by Azahari.

Neri recounted that Lukman Susetyo, head of the Good Shepherd Catholic Young People, a youth group, called him on the phone to inquire about the situation.

Susetyo, whose house is about 500 meters from the one Azahari rented, told UCA News, "I was shocked and worried." He said he locked himself in his house for two hours before venturing out to see how other members of his youth group who live in the area were doing.

National Police chief General Sutanto told reporters Nov. 10 that police had killed two men, one of them Azahari. The Malaysian national known as the "Demolition Man" has been accused of being a senior operative of the Al Qaeda-linked Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

The group aims to unite Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and the southern Philippines into a fundamentalist Islamic state. Suicide bomb attacks have become a signature tactic employed by the group.

According to police, fingerprinting confirmed that Azahari was dead, either shot or killed when a fellow militant, Arman, exploded a bomb. Police found 30 bombs inside the house.

Azahari and another compatriot, Noordin Mohammad Top, who is still at large, stand accused as the masterminds of the 2002 Bali bombings, the 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta and another bomb explosion the following year in front of the Australian embassy in South Jakarta. Noordin is also linked to Jemaah Islamiyah.

During the Nov. 9 raid, police cordoned off an area within a 300-meter radius of Azahari´s house, kept two ambulances and fire engines on standby, and cut off electricity. The raid was led by Inspector General Gorries Mere, national police deputy chief of detectives, a Catholic.

Hearing of Azahari´s death, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered police to make an all out effort to arrest Noordin.

Father Susanto said he supported the government´s commitment to continue hunting down terrorists, "because we do not justify terrorism." He said acts of terrorism also "increase interreligious suspicion among believers who are building true fraternity." Following the raid, he said he promised to moniot6r events and to inform security officials of anything suspicious.

Carmelite Sister Merry Theresia, head of Malang diocese´s Commission for Justice and Peace, told UCA News "the most important thing is for security officials to fight continuously against terrorists, because killing the mastermind does not mean completely finishing off terrorism."

The nun´s sentiments resonated with comments made to UCA News by Crosier Father Serafine Dany Sanusi, executive secretary of the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of Indonesia; Reverend Andreas Yewangoe, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia; and Din Syamsuddin, general secretary of the Indonesian Ulema (Islamic scholars) Council and of the Central Board of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia´s second-largest Muslim organization.

"People must be alert to possible violence following the raid against Azahari," Father Sanusi said Nov. 10. He called on people "not to be provoked by ethnic and religious problems that may have the potential to spark sectarian conflict in Indonesia." He also urged that terrorism not be linked with Islam, saying because all religions teach peace and respect human rights and dignity.

Reverend Yewangoe said he respected police efforts at hunting down terrorists and freeing people from the fear of terrorism. But killing Azahari did not mean eradicating his ideology, he added. Others could still subscribe to his beliefs and a new generation of Azahari-type terrorists could emerge, the Protestant leader cautioned.

Syamsuddin appealed to young people not to be lured into joining terrorist groups, and he urged security officials to arrest the main "dalang" (puppeteers) of terrorism in the country.

Asserting that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, he invited all people, including Muslims, to jointly fight against terrorists, "our common enemies." He declared that Azahari was not a martyr but had killed himself. "Religion strongly criticizes suicide!" he said.


(Accompanying photos available at here)