Friday, August 21, 2009

Indonesia militants plotted Obama attack?

A police investigation into last month's Jakarta hotel bombings shows that militants also planned to use snipers to attack Barack Obama's convoy when the U.S. president visits Indonesia, an intelligence expert told Reuters.

Authorities were also probing whether the suicide bombings at the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels on July 17 received overseas funding from a group linked to Al Qaeda, said Dynno Chressbon, an intelligence analyst at the Center for Intelligence and National Security who is close to the police investigations.

He said two of four wanted suspects -- Ario Sudarso and Mohamad Syahrir -- who police released pictures of on Wednesday had been prepared as snipers for an attack on Obama.

"For Obama, they planned to attack the convoy around the airport using MK-IIIs," he said, referring to a type of Russian-made sniper rifle that he said was used by the Taliban in Afghanistan and also in Muslim conflict areas in the Philippines.

An Indonesian police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday, but the sniper plot and other suspected plots indicate the scale of the ambitions of Indonesian militants may be far higher than first thought.

Obama has been widely expected to include a stopover in the world's most populous Muslim nation when he attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore in November.

The alleged snipers were from a group called the Indonesian Islamic State, which has a training camp in the restive southern Philippines and also has received support from a group headed by Malaysian-born militant Noordin Mohammad Top, Chressbon said.

Top, who formed a violent wing of the Jemaah Islamiah militant network, is believed to be the mastermind behind July's hotel attacks which killed nine people and wounded 53.

Since the hotel bombings, police have arrested at least five people and three others have been killed during raids, while police said a plot to attack Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had been thwarted.

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Reuters, 20 August 2009