Saturday, September 13, 2008

West 'makes terror fight harder'

West 'makes terror fight harder'

By Lucy Williamson

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Indonesia's head of counter-terrorism says Western governments have made it harder for moderate Muslims to tackle terror in their own countries.

Ansyaad Mbai told the BBC that Indonesia's own fight against terrorism relied on a much softer approach.

He suggested other countries should also apply similar tactics alongside military force.

Indonesia has had striking success in tackling terrorism on its soil in the past few years.

Mr Mbai said each country faced a unique situation in its fight against terrorism, and that there was no one-size-fits-all.

But he said that there needed to be a balance between force and negotiation, and that war - as pursued by America in Iraq and Afghanistan - was not an effective strategy against terrorism.

"Muslims see this strategy as destructively attacking Muslims, as attacking Islam... This is not the solution," he said.

"The use of war against the militants in the Middle East doesn't stop the terrorists and radicals."

Controversial approach

A few years ago, Indonesia was caught in the spotlight of America's self-proclaimed war on terror.

Just a year after the 9/11 attacks, Islamic militants blew themselves up at nightclubs on the island of Bali, killing more than 200 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Those attacks were followed by a chain of other bombings.

But in the past few years, Indonesia has managed to halt those attacks and break down the country's main terror network.

It has done it using a softer and sometimes controversial approach.

For example, it has used former militants to negotiate with radical cells, and spread a more moderate message.

And that is something that Mr Mbai said Western governments had made harder.

"The situation in Iraq and Afghanistan makes it more difficult for us, for moderate Muslims, to convince the radicals that the war in Iraq is not an attack against a Muslim country," he said.

Indonesia has focused a great deal on trying to de-radicalise its hardline groups.

But it is hard to assess how successful that has been.

Much easier to count are the hundreds of arrests, including the capture earlier this year of several key members of the radical Islamist network Jemaah Islamiah.

But new cells have also been discovered, and police say the existing networks have become smaller, more mobile and harder to track.

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