Subject: Militia Thug Eurico Guterres Fans Flames of Anti-American Sentiment

The Guardian [UK] Thursday September 27, 2001

Jakarta dispatch

Indonesian jihad

Islamist efforts to stoke anti-American sentiment have attracted an unlikely ally, writes John Aglionby

Handriansyah is itching to fight a holy war against America and is ready to die doing so. "It's about time someone stood up to the Americans and taught them they cannot do what they want," said this 27-year-old student. "We are ready to do that in defence of our Muslim brothers in Afghanistan".

"We" is the Islamic Youth Movement Brigade (BGPI) and Handriansyah is the commander of its Jakarta chapter. Like several other Islamist groups in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, BGPI declared a jihad against the United States earlier this week in reaction to its post-September 11 action and has been aggressively recruiting warriors ever since.

The 56-year-old movement claims to have recruited 650 new volunteers who are willing to go to Afghanistan for a holy war, in addition to its several thousand existing recruits. Other organisations, such as the Islamic Defenders Front and the Holy War Force, boast similar rosters and say their ranks are swelling everyday, although they offer no independent evidence.

"At the moment we have enough money to send 50 people," Handriansyah said. "But it should not take too long to raise even more."

The bulk of the growing ranks of Islamist fighters, however, will remain on the home front, where a separate campaign is being planned.

Its aims are crystal clear. "If one bullet fired by an American soldier injures an Afghan Muslim, we will boycott all American goods in Indonesia," a BGPI war declaration stated. "If two bullets wound Afghan Muslims, we will sweep Indonesia of Americans. If three bullets kill Afghan Muslims, we will ensure that the American ambassador will have to be replaced. If one American missile is fired at Afghanistan, we will ensure that the American embassy will have to be rebuilt."

It's hard to judge how seriously to take the bluster. In the one hour I spent at the main Jakarta recruiting office this morning only a few recruits trickled in and none of them could exactly be described as fanatic. "I want to be a soldier of fortune," said Muhammad Gazi. "I see this as my chance to travel the world and help my Islamic brothers."

But there is undoubtedly a hard core of loyalists, such as Handriansyah, who brandish pictures showing George Bush's head superimposed on a picture of a gun-toting Rambo and captioned "the world's greatest Satan". Dressed in flowing green and white robes, he has a slingshot tucked into his belt and a Kalashnikov rifle, albeit made out of polystyrene, lying on his desk.

Some elements of the media are also whipping up anti-America feeling - saying Indonesian Muslims have no choice but to join a jihad - and the conservative but influential Indonesian ulemas' [clerics'] council has also called for a "holy war for truth".

More worrying is the attitude of the police. While officers claim to be ready to safeguard foreigners in Indonesia, the reality is that they are more likely to stand aside and let militants rampage at will, as eyewitnesses said they did on Sunday in the city of Solo, Java, when Islamist groups "swept" hotels for Americans.

In an editorial titled Police cowardice, the English-language Jakarta Post newspaper said today: "It is difficult to escape the impression that our national police are trying to find excuses to cover up for their lack of courage to act."

The American embassy is certainly taking the threats seriously. Targeted by several demonstrations every day, which are growing in size, this morning it authorised the voluntary evacuation of non-essential embassy staff and their dependants. Some people have already packed their bags and many private American companies are considering similar moves.

Another cause for concern was the man I bumped into as I left the BGPI office. Being a Catholic, the East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres was the last person I would have expected to see in a jihad recruitment centre.

But this thug, who is alleged to have murdered dozens of people in East Timor in 1999 and directed the destruction of much of the capital, Dili, was there on business. "This is not just about Islam," he said. "It's about global humanitarianism. We have to stand up for and defend what is right. What America is doing is clearly wrong. We have to act."

With Eurico on board, there's no knowing where this might end.


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