BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — An extremist Islamic group with links to al Qaeda has set up relief operations in Aceh province on Sumatra island, raising concerns that international relief workers will become terrorist targets as in Iraq.
Amid hundreds of aid workers near the airport in Banda Aceh, Laskar Mujahidin posted an English-language sign that reads “Islamic Law Enforcement.”
The group, known for hunting down and killing Christians during a long-running sectarian conflict in another part of Indonesia, said yesterday it is collecting corpses, distributing food and spreading Islamic teachings among refugees….
Laskar Mujahidin was once headed by Abu Bakar Bashir, an Islamic cleric now on trial as a suspected leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, which has close links to al Qaeda. Some Jemaah Islamiyah members helped the September 11 hijackers.
The group has been accused of having links to terrorist groups outside Indonesia, including al Qaeda, according to a report by Sydney Jones, an analyst with the International Crisis Group.
It also reportedly accepted aid offered by an emissary of Osama bin Laden, Miss Jones wrote in a recent report.
In a speech in Singapore yesterday, Miss Jones said Laskar Mujahidin’s motives on Sumatra may have to do with fears that the foreign humanitarian effort was an attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity.