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President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — credited with running an effective anti-terror campaigns — is re-elected by a landslide. A week later, two Jakarta hotels are bombed; officials say the 2002 Bali bomber is the top suspect. Three people are killed in a shootout at Freeport, and two Freeport execs are injured in the hotel bombings. Manchester United cancels a friendly match in Jakarta; officials plead for the team to reconsider.
Top News: Counter-terrorism officials in Jakarta are now almost certain that the twin bombings of the J.W. Marriot and Ritz Carlton hotels on July 17 are the work of the country’s most wanted criminal, Noordin Mohammad Top.
Top is a former leader of the Al Qaeda linked, Southeast Asian terrorist organization known as Jemaah Islamiyah. Most of his colleagues in that group however have been either arrested or killed in recent years and Jemaah Islamiyah has taken on a decidedly less violent tone.
For this reason, Top has been forced to splinter from Jemaah Islamiyah, though he is still able to recruit from the organization’s ranks, and some Jemaah Islamiyah members are helping to protect and hide Top, counter-terrorism officials say.
Jemaah Islamiyah and other like-minded groups have an extraordinary social network at their disposal in Indonesia that includes mosques, Islamic boarding schools, universities, neighborhoods and businesses — all of which have allowed such groups to remain a potent threat.
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country but Indonesians have always been generally moderate in their beliefs. The small sliver of violent fundamentalists that still exists here however have managed several major bombings, including the 2002 nightclub bombing in Bali that killed about 200 people, the first J.W. Marriot Hotel bombing in 2004, the bombing of the Australian embassy in 2004 and the second Bali bombing in 2005. The U.S. State Department believes Top to be behind almost all of those bombings.
The bombings came just over a week after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was re-elected by a landslide on July 8 in the country’s second-ever direct presidential elections. Outside of complaints by the opposition of fraudulent voter lists and the refusal of at least one of his competitors to sign the election results, the elections passed by peacefully and without incident.
Although the bombings appear to be unrelated to the elections, they were a major blow to Yudhoyono, who had been widely credited with launching one of the most successful campaigns against Islamic terrorism anywhere in the world.
Money: The American-owned Freeport gold and copper mine in the remote and resource rich region of Papua is again under scrutiny after several days of shootings that began July 11 near the mine that left three dead, including a 29-year old Australian man.
Two Freeport executives were also injured during the July 17 bombings in Jakarta during a business breakfast at the Marriott.
The attacks highlight the ongoing risks for foreign businesses in Indonesia, despite some major reforms during Yudhoyono’s first term. Police have arrested more than 10 people in relation to the shootings. A government spokesman, however, has already laid blame on a 30-year old, simmering, separatist group.
Freeport, however, pays the military and police protection money and some reports suggest the shootings were actually the work of rogue police or military officers who are trying to extract more money from the company.
The bullets found at the scene matched the kinds of weapons used by both police and military personnel and Papua’s separatist group is not believed to have access to any guns at all. The shootings resemble those that happened in 2002, when an American teacher was killed. A Papuan separatist group member has been jailed for that crime, but human rights workers contend that he acted in cahoots with military personnel.
The shootings at Freeport and the bombings in Jakarta quickly wiped out any gains made by the country’s main stock index after market-friendly Yudhoyono was so swiftly re-elected. But Indonesia continues to buck the global trend while its economy continues to grow around 4.5 percent.
The European Union lifted a two year old ban on several Indonesian airlines July 15, allowing Garuda, the country’s state carrier, to finally expand its operations to some European countries.
The EU had banned all 51 Indonesian airlines after a string of deadly crashes highlighted lax safety standards and regulations. The EU now says the Garuda, along with three other smaller airlines, have addressed the problems and are welcome again in EU airspace.
Garuda, one of the world’s few profitable airlines because of strong domestic demand, said it would start flying to Amsterdam during the first half of 2010 and then to several other European cities after that, including Frankfurt and London. It also expects to double its fleet to about 116 jets.
Elsewhere: Perhaps one of the most devastating outcomes of the most recent bombings for the average Indonesian was the announcement by the Manchester United soccer club that it had to cancel its friendly match with an Indonesian team in Jakarta that was scheduled for the Monday after the bombings.
Soccer-crazed Indonesians, of which there are many, had highly anticipated the match. More than 100,000 tickets for the match at Jakarta’s Bung Karno Stadium has been sold out in a matter of hours and even the president mentioned the cancelation in his speech responding to the bombings.
This is also likely to hurt Jakarta’s bid to host the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022. In soaring language, Dino Patti Djalal, the presidential spokesman, tried to convince United and its collection of multi-millionaire athletes to still come to Jakarta.
“Of all the great feats that have been, and will be, achieved by Manchester United as a great football team with a heart, proceeding with the match in Jakarta as a measure of solidarity will be long remembered by history,” he said, sadly to no avail.