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Context of 'October 11, 2002: US Ambassador Warns Indonesian Leaders about Imminent Attack; Publicly Threatens to Withdraw Some US Personnel'

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US officials hold a secret meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and strongly urge her to allow the US to rendition Abu Bakar Bashir out of the country. Bashir is a radical Islamist imam alleged to be the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), al-Qaeda’s main Southeast Asian affiliate. US ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce, National Security Council official Karen Brooks, and a CIA official meet with Megawati at her home in Jakarta. The interpreter is an American named Fred Burks, who will later reveal details of the meeting during an Indonesian trial. Burks claims the CIA official tells Megawati that Bashir was responsible for a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Indonesia in 2000 and asks to rendition him. Megawati had allowed the US to rendition two suspects earlier in the year, Omar al-Faruq and Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni (see June 5, 2002 and Early January-January 9, 2002). But neither of them are Indonesian citizens, whereas Bashir is. Megawati rejects the request, saying Bashir is too popular to simply disappear without repercussions. (Megawati’s Vice President Hamzah Haz describes himself as “very close” to Bashir, and shortly after this meeting he says publicly, “If you want to arrest Abu Bakar Bashir, you will have to deal with me first” (see July 23, 2001-October 20, 2004).) Burks claims that Megawati says: “I can’t render somebody like him. People will find out.” Boyce will later claim that the US did press forcefully for Indonesia to arrest Bashir because the CIA had just learned from interrogating al-Faruq that Bashir was the head of a terrorist network that was about to attack Indonesia. However, he will deny the US wanted to rendition him. Boyce will later call the meeting the centerpiece of a month-long series of meetings with Indonesian officials in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack in Indonesia. [BBC, 1/3/2005; Boston Globe, 3/2/2005] However, the Bali bombings take place one month later, killing over 200 (see October 12, 2002). In 2005, Bashir will be acquitted of charges that he was involved in any terrorist acts and set free after serving a year in prison on minor charges (see March 3, 2005).

Entity Tags: Megawati Sukarnoputri, Fred Burks, Central Intelligence Agency, Abu Bakar Bashir, Hamzah Haz, Karen Brooks, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, Omar al-Faruq, Jemaah Islamiyah, Ralph Boyce

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ralph Boyce meeting with Megawati Sukarnoputri in September 2004.Ralph Boyce meeting with Megawati Sukarnoputri in September 2004. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]Ralph Boyce, the US ambassador to Indonesia, warns Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and her top advisers that a group linked to al-Qaeda is planning an attack in Indonesia. The warning does not specify when and where an attack might occur, but it is the latest of several warnings based on the interrogations of al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Faruq and Mohammed Mansour Jabarah (see June 5, 2002 and August 21, 2002). Boyce gives Megawati until October 24 to take action. He says that if Indonesia does not take action by then, the US is going to order all but the most essential US diplomats out of the country as a public warning that Indonesia is a safe haven for terrorists. An unnamed US official will later tell the New York Times: “We told them: ‘Wrap it up. Block it. Demonstrate that you are serious about eliminating the threat against us.’” Boyce publicly warns that the US is considering withdrawing non-essential personnel just hours before two bombs explode in Bali on October 12 (see October 12, 2002). As part of an effort to convince Megawati of the threat, the US allows Indonesian intelligence and police officials to interview al-Faruq, who is in US custody and being held in a secret location. Their interrogation of al-Faruq is still taking place when the Bali bombings occur. [Australian Financial Review, 10/14/2002; New York Times, 10/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Ralph Boyce, Megawati Sukarnoputri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Megawati Sukarnoputri.Megawati Sukarnoputri. [Source: Secretary of Vice President of Republic of Indonesia]The New York Times reports that Indonesia’s intelligence agency and its director are well regarded by the US. “But there are still senior intelligence officers here who believe that the CIA was behind the bombing,” according to a Western security official. As a result, the Bush administration has asked Megawati Sukarnoputri, president of Indonesia from 2001 to 2004, to publicly refute theories, popular in Indonesia, that the CIA was involved in the Bali bombings that took place one month earlier (see October 12, 2002). Megawati refuses to do so, and in fact condemns the US, saying, “a superpower that forced the rest of the world to go along with it,” adding, “We see how ambition to conquer other nations has led to a situation where there is no more peace unless the whole world is complying with the will of the one with the power and strength.” [New York Times, 11/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Megawati Sukarnoputri, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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