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Indonesia, terror's latest front

Jakarta's defense minister Monday linked the bombing in Bali to Al Qaeda.

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Most of the victims of Saturday's bombing in Bali – the deadliest terrorist attack since Sept. 11 – were Australian.

But the blast that wounded 300 and took the lives of at least 189 people – including tourists from the US, Germany, Britain, France, Ecuador, the Netherlands, and Sweden – is reverberating worldwide, revitalizing official support for the war against terrorists.

Now a critical question hangs over the world's largest Muslim nation: Will Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri take swift, decisive action against radical groups in her country?

In a week that saw Pakistan's hardline Muslim political parties make unexpectedly large gains in elections, Indonesia also now finds itself on the frontlines of a difficult counter-terrorism war – and roundly condemned for footdragging. "You have to hope that she's finally going to meet this problem head on,'' says one Southeast Asian diplomat. "They can't deny they have a problem anymore, and the nation that's going to suffer the most is Indonesia."

Voicing a view seen in capitals worldwide Monday, Japan's leading newspaper Yomuiri wrote: "Indonesia should not be the weak link in the global campaign against terrorism." Japan is Indonesia's biggest aid donor.

The timing of the Bali bombing may indicate its origins. It occurred on the second anniversary of the Al Qaeda-linked attack against the USS Cole in Yemen, and within a week of a suspected bombing of a French oil tanker near Yemen and another attack that killed a US Marine in Kuwait.

"There are groups that have been given ideological direction and training by Al Qaeda, but can take the operational controls for themselves," says terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, author of the book "Inside Al Qaeda."

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