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Thursday, June 29, 2006

UPI Intelligence Watch

Foreign terrorists operating in the Philippines' predominantly Muslim Mindanao and Sulu islands are blocking significant domestic and foreign aid from reaching the region, a U.S.-based expert says.

The Adnkronos International news agency Wednesday published an interview with Astrid Tuminez, a senior researcher at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC. Tuminez was attending the 5th Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Business Congress in Lamitan in Basilan province. The congress sought to highlight business opportunities in the region, the poorest in the Philippines, for indigenous and foreign investors.

Tuminez said, "The United States and even the Australian believe there are still terrorists actively operating in Mindanao. Aside from the United States and Australia, the Canadian government, Japan and the influential Organization of Islamic Conference are also showing willingness to support Mindanao."

The USIP is attempting to initiate a dialogue between local Muslim militants and the Mindanao government.

Muslim and communist rebels began their armed struggle for independence in Mindanao in the mid-1960s. Over 120,000 people have been killed in the ensuing turmoil.

Tuminez urged the people of Mindanao to assist Manila in combating terrorism, noting, "Take advantage of this time when the world is paying attention to Mindanao. Prove to them that Muslims in this region are not sympathizing with any bad deeds."

The U.S. National Counter-Terrorism Center issued a report last year documenting 11 indigenous and foreign terrorist and rebel groups operating in the southern Philippines. The center's report listed the Abu Sayyaf Group, Jemaah Islamiyah, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front, the Abdujarak Janjalani Brigade, the Alex Boncayao Brigade, the Free Vietnam Revolutionary Group, the Indigenous People's Federal Army, al-Qaida, and the Communist New People's Army.

Al-Qaida, the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah are on both the United States and European Union lists of terrorist groups.

WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- The Indonesian Attorney General's Office is preparing to execute three men convicted of the Oct. 12, 2002 Bali bombings.

The Bali bombers targeted the island's Kuta nightclub strip, killing 202 people and injuring 209 in Indonesia's worst terrorist incident. The Denpasar District Court sentenced the three men to death in September 2003 for the attacks.

The Jakarta Post reported Wednesday that Attorney General's Office spokesman I Wayan Pasek Suarte did not provide a date when Imam Samudra, Amrozi and his elder brother Ali Ghufron, alias Mukhlas, would be executed by firing squad, as Indonesian law bars authorities from publicly releasing execution dates prior to sentences being carried out, although the convicts and their families are informed in advance.

According to Pasek, the Attorney General's Office had received preliminary approval from Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin to carry out the executions of the convicted bombers at a heavily-guarded prison on Nusakambangan Island off Cilacap in Central Java.

Death row convicts are usually executed in jails in the jurisdiction where their crimes were committed but Pasek said that the three men would not be executed on Bali for "safety reasons. The justice minister hasn't approved (the executions) formally, but thanks to our excellent relations with him, we can assure you that we have received a positive signal from the minister."

Pasek said Imam, Amrozi and Mukhlas and their families had formally stated that they would not seek clemency from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "That's why we are preparing all the necessary procedures for the executions," he said.

Ahmad Dinan, a lawyer for the condemned men said that their defense team intended to petition the Indonesian Supreme Court to review the sentence because of a "legal loophole."

Dinan said, "The convictions have violated the Constitutional Court's ruling that laws can not be retroactive. Because the law on terrorism was passed after the 2002 Bali bombings, it should not be applied in this case."
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