Indonesian president's security tightened over death threat
Posted: 04 November 2008 2318 hrs
JAKARTA: Indonesia tightened security around the president on Tuesday after threats to his life, with the execution of three Islamists convicted over the Bali bombings imminent.
The threat to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was in an online letter purportedly from the death row Bali bombers, Mukhlas, brother Amrozi and Imam Samudra, presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng said.
The letter, posted on an Internet website in Indonesian, Arabic and English and dated August, urges Islamist militants to "war against and kill" Yudhoyono and other senior officials in retaliation for the executions.
"We are taking necessary steps to overcome the threat to the President and officials. This cannot be treated as a mere hoax," presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng told reporters.
"Around the world, such threats are against the law and are treated as acts of terror," Mallarangeng said.
Police earlier announced they were investigating who was behind the letter, which has been on the Internet for at least the last month.
A lawyer for the bombers, Fahmi Bachmid, said the letter was not written by his clients.
Security has been boosted across the mainly Muslim archipelago amid fears of reprisal attacks by Islamic militants following the executions, which are expected to happen by firing squad this week.
The United States and Australian embassies were earlier in the day the target of anonymous bomb threats sent to police by text message pledging to blow up the embassies if the bombers were executed.
Police later announced the all-clear after searches of the heavily guarded embassy compounds failed to find any bombs.
The 2002 Bali attacks targeted nightspots packed with Western tourists, killing 202 people including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians. The bombers said the attacks were revenge for US aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Australia has warned citizens against travel to Indonesia, and the United States - which lost seven nationals in the attack - has warned Americans in the country to "maintain a low profile."
About 30 Islamic radicals arrived at Mukhlas and Amrozi's home village of Tenggulun, east Java, around dawn on Monday and denounced the executions as "murder."
"There are hundreds of us waiting to come... If Amrozi is executed a thousand more will come," said Abdulrahim, a member of the group led by radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.
Bashir is one of the founders of the Jemaah Islamiyah regional terror network, which is blamed for the Bali bombings and other attacks across Southeast Asia.
Other supporters wore balaclavas and shouted threats against the United States, its regional ally Australia and Israel. "Free Amrozi, destroy America!" they chanted.
A brother of the condemned men, Jafar Shodiq, made an emotional appeal for support from Muslims everywhere.
"All Muslims besides those who support us will come without being invited," he said, before shouting: "Raise your voice... raise your voice to prevent disaster from God."
The bombers have failed with each of their appeals against the death sentence, including a last-minute petition filed on Monday.
A lawyer for the condemned men said their families were still waiting for permission from the attorney general's office to visit them in prison before they die.
Anti-death penalty campaigners have complained that the bombers were convicted under a 2003 anti-terror law that was applied retroactively.
The Bali attacks were the bloodiest in a sustained period of Al-Qaeda-inspired jihadist violence in the world's most populous Muslim country.
Bombings at the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta in 2003, the Australian embassy in 2004 and Bali again in 2005, among others, killed scores of people.
Indonesians generally practise a moderate version of Islam but a fanatical fringe led by Jemaah Islamiyah has waged jihad, or holy war, for many years in a bid to bring about a regional Islamic caliphate.
The alleged mastermind of the Bali bombings and subsequent attacks, Malaysian extremist Noordin Mohammad Top, is still at large. - AFP/de