Indonesia: Top Topped

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October 6, 2009: When police cornered and killed terrorist leader Noordin Mohammad Top last month, they also captured laptop computers and much electronic data. This provided confirmation of Top's involvement in recent terror attacks, as well as planned operations. Most important, there was lots of data on Islamic terrorists operating in the region. Police have been following up on this, but most of Top's associates fled when news of their leaders death was announced. But many of these associates are now known, and the generally anti-terrorist attitudes in the country makes it likely that many of these suspects will be arrested or killed in the next year. The police fear that many of these suspects will flee the country, and head for Malaysia, Philippines and Pakistan. But none of these three places are as good a terrorist sanctuary as they used to be. Counter-terror operations in all three  make life much more difficult for Islamic radicals, especially foreign ones (who are easier to identify.) Top's death brings to an end a six year manhunt, which went on so long that many people in the region began to believe that Top had some magical ability to evade capture. Now that myth is shattered, and even some of Top's close supporters are disillusioned, and either quitting their terrorist activities, or surrendering.

In the westernmost province of Aceh, the local legislature passed laws based on Sharia (Islamic law) mandating stoning or whippings for various crimes. Non-Moslems (14 percent of the national population) appealed to the federal government to protect from the growing use of Sharia in Aceh (which resolved a rebellion by receiving greater autonomy.) But it's unclear if this autonomy extends to Sharia law punishments.

In East Timor, the last refugee camp has closed. Three years ago, civil unrest caused over 150,000 people to flee the gang violence, and live in 60 refugee camps. But many of those returning to their homes, find them destroyed, looted or taken over by someone else. This has kept the police busy, trying to avoid another widespread outbreak of violence. East Timor is still very poor and largely dependent on foreign aid to survive. Despite that, the UN is feuding with the East Timor government over the recent release, by the government, by an Indonesian accused, by the UN, of war crimes (during the final battles for East Timor independence from Indonesia in 1999). But East Timor wants peace with Indonesia (who sees such "war criminals" as national heroes) more than it wants to kiss up to the UN.

September 17, 2009: Police cornered four Islamic terrorists in Central Java. After a gun battle, they identified one of the dead, using fingerprints, as most wanted terrorist Noordin Mohammad Top. This was later confirmed by DNA tests. Top was tracked down when two of his followers were arrested the day before, and gave up the information under interrogation.

 

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