INDONESIA. Militant cleric Abu Rusdan (center) is escorted by security officers in this file photo dated November 3, 2003 after his trial in a district court in Jakarta, Indonesia. (AP)

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism unit has arrested a convicted militant and alleged leader of an al-Qaeda-related group who was responsible for a number of previous bombings in the country, Indonesian police said late on Monday, September 13th Arrested Friday in Bekasi near the capital Jakarta along with three other suspected members of the Jemaah Islamiyah, said police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan.

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“He is currently known to be active in the leadership of the illegal Jemaah Islamiyah network,” Ramadhan told the Associated Press. Indonesian authorities consider Rusdan a key figure in the Jemaah Islamiyah, which the US calls a terrorist group. The seedy Southeast Asian network is widely blamed for attacks in the Philippines and Indonesia – including the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali, in which 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed. Ramadhan described the arrests as part of a wider nationwide crackdown on the group. The police are still searching for other alleged members and heeded indications that the group was recruiting and training new members in Indonesia. 61-year-old Rusdan, born in central Java, was sentenced to prison in 2003 for housing Ali Ghufron, a militant who was later convicted and executed for the bombings in Bali. After his release from prison in 2006, Rusdan toured Indonesia delivering speeches and fiery sermons that received tens of thousands of views on YouTube. In a recorded sermon, he praised Afghanistan as the “land of jihad” – the country in which he had previously trained with other militant groups. The Indonesian Counter-Terrorism Police Unit known as Densus 88 has arrested 53 suspected members of the Jemaah in the past weeks in 11 different provinces. An Indonesian court banned the group in 2008 and continued crackdown by the country’s security forces, with support from the US and Australia, has helped weaken the militant network. A spokesman for the Indonesian National Intelligence Agency, Wawan Hari Purwanto, said in a video statement earlier this month that after the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, officials had stepped up their early detection and prevention efforts, “particularly against terrorist groups affiliated with the Ideology and the networks of the Taliban ”. for months. Last year, Indonesian officials say counter-terrorism forces captured dozens of militants and suspected members of the Jemaah, including their suspected military leader Zulkarnaen, who has been wanted for more than 18 years. Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia in recent years have largely been replaced by smaller, less deadly attacks against the government police and security forces, inspired by the tactics of the IS group abroad. (AP)

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