The suicide bombings that devastated three crowded restaurants on the Indonesian resort island of Bali over the weekend come as a chilling reminder that the world has yet to break the cycle of terrorist violence. The coordinated attacks reportedly killed at least 22 people, including a Japanese tourist, and wounded more than 90.
So far, no one has claimed responsibility. Indonesian authorities reportedly believe that the bombings were carried out by members of Jemaah Islamiyah, the Islamic underground organization in Southeast Asia that is said to have close ties with al-Qaida and with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the antigovernment separatist group in the Philippines.
Indiscriminate terrorism, which involves innocent people, is an attack against humanity that cannot be justified, whatever the reasons. The existence of an “international terrorist network” of Islamic radicals is a grave threat to peace and security. The international community must step up efforts to prevent the spread of terrorism and exterminate its roots. The latest bombings indicate that terrorism is still alive, if not kicking, in Indonesia.
In October 2002, two bombs exploded in a nightclub district on Bali, killing 202 people, including Japanese tourists. In August 2003, a car bomb in front of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in central Jakarta killed 12 people and wounded 150. In September 2004, a suicide car bomb exploded outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, killing 11 and wounding 100.
Jemaah Islamiyah was singled out as the mastermind behind all these attacks. With some of its leaders eluding a dragnet, security authorities in Indonesia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia had warned of more bombings. The latest attacks call into question the security measures of the Indonesian government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The Bali bombings, which hit “soft targets” — tourist resorts popular with foreigners — bear striking similarities to the large-scale attacks staged by Islamic militants in Egyptian resort spots since last year. In both cases, Anti-Americanism appears to be a common driving force.
In fact, terrorists scattered around the world take a hostile stand against the United States. Their message, in a nutshell, seems to be that America and its allies are trying to suppress the Muslims in the name of the war on terror. Their “hit lists” include governments that cooperate with Washington. Indiscriminate attacks on foreigners, including Westerners, seem designed to undermine these pro-American governments.
Jemaah Islamiyah, which aims at establishing Islamic states throughout Southeast Asia, as well as other radical Islamic groups in the region, had targeted regional governments in the early days of their activities. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. and the war in Iraq, however, they have morphed into anti-American terrorist organizations.
That was evidenced by the subway and bus bombings in London in July, which occurred during the Group of Eight summit of leading industrialized countries in Gleneagles, Scotland. Terrorism then spread to the Middle East, Europe and Southeast Asia. There is no assurance that Japan, which has troops stationed in southern Iraq, will be spared.
There is no denying that the U.S. war on terrorism, instead of preventing terrorist attacks, has unwittingly encouraged the formation of an international terrorist network. The international community needs to re-examine the political and social backgrounds that foster terrorism.
Along with poverty and inequalities, the sense of alienation felt by Muslim societies — a sense that they are being isolated from the trend of globalization — is said to be spawning a new generation of would-be terrorists.
The U.S. military intervention in Iraq, based on the dubious doctrine of “preemptive attack,” has created a cycle of hatred and reprisals, turning the country into a breeding ground for terrorists. But whatever its justifications or reasons, terrorism is a crime that cannot be tolerated.
Still, as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has said rightly, human rights and the rule of law must be respected even in the war against terror.
The challenge for the international community is to isolate terrorist organizations through political cooperation, for example, in fighting poverty and resolving regional conflict. The Iraq war has proven that the military option is not viable.
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