Jakarta to call in the military in Bali bombing enquiry

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced that the military will soon be involved in the investigation into the October 1 Bali bombings.

The decision has drawn strong criticism from NGOs and human rights activists who remember the role the army played in the country's political life and economy under the regime of military dictator Suharto until the latter's fall in 1999. Suharto's army chief, General Wiranto, is still accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor.

Under President Susilo's proposal military intelligence would be given new powers, including the right to infiltrate hardliner Muslim groups.

"Since terrorism tends to involve well organised networks, we much need the army's means and skills to fight it," said Inspector General Ansyaad Mbai,

Armed Forces Chief, General Endriartono Sutarto, said that they are ready to establish a tight control over the territory. But it is this "territorial control" that NGOs fear.

Critics argue that reviving the army's territorial function gives it too much discretional power violating the military's own internal reform mandated by Article 11 of Law Nº34.

Reaction to the military's new role is not entirely negative. Some 'non military' opinions are in favour of the President's decision. The regular police force and secret services have in fact come under criticism by the national media and the business community for "incompetence and slow investigations". 

In the meantime the police has deployed its elite-anti-terror unit 'Detasement 88', better known as 'Densus 88, in its efforts to solve the second Bali bombings.

A massive operation will start tomorrow, the third anniversary of the first Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

Police spokesman Brigadier General Soenarko said that intelligence officials and anti-terrorism units are on high alert and deployed at every strategic point in the country.

The police is also calling on the general public to come forward to help law enforcement in its hunt for the two main suspects, Malaysian nationals Azahari bin Husin and Noordin M. Top, who are thought to be hiding in hard-line fundamentalist strongholds in Java. Central Java police Chief Inspector General Chaerul Rasyid led an operation in person in the Surakarta area in search of the two fugitives but with no results.

Suicide attacks on October 1 in the tourist resorts of Jimbaran and Kuta, and the island of Bali, killed 25 people and wounded more than 130 others. (MH)