Indonesia's military joins anti-terror campaign

Indonesia's military is reinstating its national intelligence network, boosting the fight against Islamic terrorists blamed for a series of bloody attacks on Western and Christian targets in recent years.

The move to involve the military in anti-terror operations has drawn fire from rights activists who fear a return to the days of the Suharto dictatorship, when the army monitored and brutally repressed any dissent.

Military chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said he had ordered regional military commands to establish anti-terror desks tasked with monitoring militant groups. Officers will not have the power to make arrests, he said.

"The military is involved in the war on terror to back up the police with necessary information, so that we can prevent any acts of terrorism as early as possible," Sutarto said Monday after a Cabinet meeting.

After the downfall of Suharto in 1998, the military was the focus of widespread anger because of its role in propping up the dictator. The first post-Suharto government ordered the institution to focus only on external defense.

But after last month's suicide bombings on Bali island, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, himself a former military general, ordered the military to join the fight against Islamic extremists.

The government has sought to downplay human rights fears stemming from the announcement, saying it had no intention of sacrificing the country's newly introduced democratic freedoms.

The Oct. 1 blasts at three crowded restaurants were the fourth time in three years that suspected Islamic militants attacked Western targets in Indonesia, including bombings on Bali island in 2002 that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, reports the AP. I.L.

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