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Indonesian Jihad Trainers Beat Up Reporters

Indonesian Jihad Trainers Beat Up Reporters Visiting Camp

JAKARTA, April 9 (AFP) - Three Indonesian journalists, including an AFP reporter, were beaten up by youths taking jihad (holy war) training at a camp 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of here Sunday.

The three journalists -- the AFP correspondent, a reporter of the BBC's Indonesian service and a freelance photographer -- were beaten and kicked after they had entered the training camp from the back gate, the AFP reporter said.

"We were asking our way to the main post to seek permission to look around in the camp when several youths fell on us and started beating us up," the reporter said.

The journalists were then interrogated for hours before finally being taken to the local police station.

The camp, in a valley in the Kayumanis village in Tanah Sareal sub-district of West Java, is a site for training Muslim volunteers fighting in the strife-torn Maluku islands where clashes with Christians have been going on since January last year.

Other journalists trying to approach the site from the main entrance were threatened with machetes and told to go away, an AFP photographer said.

The camp, set up on seven hectares (17.2 acres) of land belonging to a Muslim foundation, is only accessible by foot three kilometers from the hill town of Bogor.

Witnesses watching the activities of the camp from the outside in the morning said the participants were practising martial arts using machetes and swords.

The Jakarta Post daily on Saturday quoted a member of the camp's "special guard" as saying 3,150 people were taking part in the first phase of the

program which started April 6.

The guard said phase one will end on April 16 and the group will leave on April 23 for Ambon, capital of Maluku province where Muslim-Christian violence has claimed more than 3,000 lives in the past year.

The Jihad training camp is organized by a radical Muslim group, which calls itself the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama'ah Forum.

Group commander Jaffar Umar Thalib announced the jihad plan in a mass rally attended by some 10,000 people in the capital on Thursday.

He was quoted by the Post as saying some of the trainers in the Kayumanis camp had "experience in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Moro" in the southern Philippines.

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, a moderate Muslim scholar, reportedly lost his temper when the group visited him after the rally on Thursday.

Wahid told journalists that should the group go ahead with their plans, they would face "stern action" by the country's security forces.

In Thursday's rally, Forum speakers in fiery speeches said the number of

youths who had signed up for the jihad had reached 10,000.

Their aim was to break what they called the "Christian rebellion" in the

islands.

The sectarian violence originated in Ambon, the capital of the Malukus, in January 1999, and was sparked by a trivial dispute between a local Christian driver and a Muslim.

The brawl quickly degenerated into open clashes between Christians and Muslims and within weeks had spread to the other islands in the Malukus.

More than 80 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people follow Islam, making it one of the world's largest Muslim-populated nations

+++niuswire

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