Indonesia: January 29, 2004

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The fighting in Aceh continues, leaving two or three people dead each day. The Red Cross has suspended its efforts to negotiate the release of a hundred civilians and soldiers held hostage by the Aceh separatist rebels.  Separatism remains popular in Aceh, with most people seeing themselves as better off if Aceh could keep all the oil and gas profits for themselves instead of sharing it with the rest of Indonesia.

The investigation and prosecution of Islamic radicals continues, although the government is still reluctant to go after senior religious leaders who support the radicals. The government does fear the radicals because of the demands for an Islamic republic, and the violence which scares off the the tourists. But there is fear that too much pressure on the radicals could trigger a religious war between the radicals and more moderate Indonesian Moslems. So far, Islamic radicalism is more popular in the urban areas, where the young are looking for what is new and fashionable. For many, Islamic radicalism and an Islamic state are it.

 

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