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Indonesia's terrorist hunt bears fruit

The arrest Saturday of Abu Dujana, who was implicated in the 2002 nightclub bombing in Bali, points to Indonesia's aggressive new police tactics.

By Tom McCawleyCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / June 15, 2007

Jakarta, Indonesia

An intensifying six-month police manhunt in Central Java finally led officers to the hideout of one of Southeast Asia's most-wanted men Saturday.

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A series of tip-offs allowed police from Indonesia's secretive counter-terrorist police unit Detachment 88 to capture Abu Dujana, thought to be the military leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the Southeast Asian militant network blamed for a string of bombings and attacks in Indonesia.

Mr. Dujana's arrest is the culmination of some 500 arrests – an effort that has also seen Indonesia's police forces evolve from using a reactive to a proactive approach in combating the group. The latest series of arrests in January and February 2007 are the result of a new emphasis on intelligence-driven law enforcement that anticipates crimes, rather than merely reacting.

The campaign also showcases how training, logistical help, and cooperation from foreign agencies such as the Australian Federal Police and the US FBI and CIA were able to help collar a high-value international perpetrator. All the while, the Indonesian government has had to tread a delicate political path in order not to be seen as persecuting Islam in the world's largest Muslim country.

Mr. Dujana, who was arrested with seven other suspected terrorists, is wanted in connection to a string of bomb attacks, including the October 2002 blast in Bali that left 202 dead, and bomb blasts in Jakarta in 2003 and 2004.

According to a hand-drawn chart of the JI's new organizational structure presented by police in March, Dujana was the qoid or commander of a sariyah, or battalion, believed to be a kind of JI special forces. Police officers said they hope the arrest of someone so senior will help them identify the group's links with militants still at large in the Philippines and the Middle East. JI-linked figures such as Noordin Top, a recruiter for the group, are still at large.

"If he [Dujana] talks, he could provide police with information about the structure, strength, international connections, goals, and objectives of JI," says Sidney Jones, Southeast Asia director for the International Crisis Group. "It's a major victory and a huge blow for JI."

New police methods led to arrest

Dujana's arrest adds further burdens to an international terrorist network already reeling from a series of arrests that followed the October 2002 Bali nightclub bombing – Indonesia's first major terrorist attack in this century. Police in Malaysia and Singapore have arrested dozens of JI members under harsh new security laws and the US Navy is helping the Philippine government pursue militants.

The manhunt for JI and domestic terrorists, say former US law enforcement officials in Indonesia, forced Indonesian police and intelligence agents to develop new skills and master new technologies. Zachary Abuza, a political scientist at Simmons College in Boston who tracks Southeast Asian terrorist groups, visited police headquarters several years ago. Mr. Abuza said he was "amazed" at "what they didn't have. No computers, no databases."