Indonesians must unite to root out the "poverty and backwardness" that led an 18-year-old to carry out the suicide bombing at a luxury hotel last month that ended a four-year pause in terrorist attacks in the country, the president said Friday.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in his annual Independence Day address that the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation "must not and cannot be defeated by terrorism."
It was Yudhoyono's first major policy speech since twin bombings on July 17 killed seven people and wounded more than 50 at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta, and the first since police said they uncovered a terror plot to assassinate him. One of the hotel bombs was set off by an 18-year-old high school graduate, and Yudhoyono said steering young people away from extremists was a key to a terror-free future.
"Let us protect our citizens and youth from misleading and extreme ideas that may lead them to commit acts of terrorism," he said.
He said government programs will be implemented to alleviate "poverty, backwardness and also injustice" used by militant Islamists to recruit volunteers in a misguided jihad, or holy war. The July hotel attack has been blamed on the same terrorist networks behind four prior bombings that together killed 250 people, many of them foreign tourists on the resort island of Bali. Police have stepped up their massive manhunt for Malaysian terror mastermind Noordin Muhammad Top, said to have orchestrated all the bombings since 2003, many of them with al-Qaida funding. Those include an earlier attack at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in 2003, one on the Australian Embassy in 2004, and a triple suicide bombing in Bali in 2005.
Three militants suspects have been shot to death during recent raids, while several other key suspects remain at large, police say, among them Noordin.
During their hunt, police allegedly uncovered a plot by Noordin and his associates to use a car bomb to assassinate Yudhoyono, who was re-elected to a second five-year-term just days before the Jakarta hotel blasts.
A former commander of Jemaah Islamiyah, the group behind the first Bali bombing that killed 202 people in 2002, said Friday that new militant volunteers continue to pose a threat to Indonesia's security.
Noordin no longer needs to find new members himself because "recruitment has been carried out by his followers and supporters," said Nasir Abas, who left the network years ago and assists with a government de-radicalization program. Noordin manages to elude capture thanks to a tight-knit support network that enables him to resettle, take new wives and plot attacks, Abas said in a new book "Fighting Terrorism and the Hunt for Noordin M. Top" that was released Thursday.