Al Qaeda Sets Up Indonesia Relief Camp
An extremist Islamic group with alleged al Qaeda links has set up a relief camp on Indonesia’s tsunami-stricken Sumatra island, raising concerns it could stir up sentiment against U.S. and Australian troops helping distribute aid. The Laskar Mujahidin group posted a sign at its camp that read — in English — “Islamic Law Enforcement.” Its members said Thursday they had been collecting corpses, distributing food and providing Islamic teaching for refugees in the predominantly Muslim Aceh province.
The presence of the extremist group, known for killing Christians in a sectarian conflict elsewhere in Indonesia, has generated fears that U.S. military personnel and other Westerners doing relief work could become terror targets.
It also underscores the fine line that foreigners, especially the U.S. military, must tread between being welcomed as Samaritans or viewed as invaders in a country where suspicion of outsiders runs deep. U.S., Australian and South Korean government officials said they were aware of security threats and were taking precautions. One major aid agency said its staff had been ordered not to fly in U.S. helicopters.
Analysts said Islamic terrorists known to operate in Indonesia would be foolish to try to attack anyone helping the hundreds of thousands of tsunami victims, because it could result in aid groups pulling out and sour the militants’ chances of building popular support. But they warned that radical groups helping the relief effort would also try to stoke anti-Western sentiment — and wait for an opportunity to attack if public support for outside help wanes.
An interesting development. Clearly, the terrorists realize that the massive Western humanitanian response to this crisis undercuts their propaganda.