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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Malaysia captures 12 Islamist militants

KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 (Reuters) - Malaysian police have captured 12 Islamist militants, most of them from Indonesia, who are suspected to have planned terrorist attacks in the region, the Star newspaper said on Tuesday.

The dozen men were arrested recently after six months of police surveillance in the Malaysian state of Sabah, on Borneo island, the daily said, quoting unnamed sources.

Malaysia's police special branch were not immediately available for comment.

Indonesia, which has seen deadly terrorist attacks in Bali and Jakarta, welcomed the report on Tuesday, saying it would help weaken militant networks in the region.

"I believe this is a good sign and an important step to fight terrorism," Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda told reporters during a visit to Malaysia.

He said that Indonesian police with the cooperation of their Malaysian counterparts had arrested several people a few months ago for smuggling explosive materials from Sabah into Indonesia.

Regional police forces had been monitoring suspicious groups on Borneo island and in the southern Philippines, he added.

The Star newspaper said police had seized firearms and documents from the 12 men, including bomb-making instructions downloaded from the Internet.

The men included at least two Malaysians and had been travelling through Sabah when police nabbed them, it added.

"However, it is not immediately known what the group's targets were or when its plans would be executed," the Star said.

The men belonged Indonesia's Darul Islam movement, it added, but Wirajuda said that group had ceased to exist long ago.

"We don't have a formal organisation called Darul Islam anymore since it was defeated in the 1960s," he said in the Malaysian administrative capital of Putrajaya where he was attending a meeting of non-aligned states.

"But as an ideology, as a political orientation, it remains clandestinely upholding this aspiration for an Islamic state."

Darul Islam, which wants to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia, is seen by security experts as the well-spring of militant splinter groups like Jemaah Islamiah, which is suspected to have carried out a series of deadly bombings in Indonesia.
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