The head of Southeast Asia’s most feared terrorist group was arrested along with his military chief, police said Friday, claiming a breakthrough in the fight against extremists in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Authorities warned, however, that Jemaah Islamiyah – blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings and other attacks – and breakaway factions could still carry out strikes against Western and Christian interests.
Zarkasih, identified for the first time as the group’s overall leader, was captured June 9 on Indonesia’s main island of Java, hours after anti-terror police closed in on his militant chief, Abu Dujana, said Brig. Gen. Suryadarma Salim.
Police initially said Wednesday that Dujana was Jemaah Islamiyah’s main leader. However, following two days of intensive interrogation, they said Zarkasih held that post.
Like other top Jemaah Islamiyah members, Zarkasih went by several aliases and underwent military training in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, where he learned bomb-making and arms handling.
“I became the emergency head … in 2005,” Zarkasih, 45, said in a videotape shown to reporters, adding that the selection came amid a police crackdown that has crippled the organization in recent years.
Gay couples will get rights
Colombia is set to become the first Latin American country to give established gay couples full rights to health insurance, inheritance and social security under a bill passed by its Congress.
The plan approved Thursday is expected to take effect soon. It is backed by the country’s conservative President Alvaro Uribe.
The measure would allow gay couples in long-term relationships to have the same health insurance and social security benefits as heterosexual couples. It also guarantees that assets accumulated during the relationship will be divided between the two, and in the case of death, inherited by the survivor.
Previously, possessions were passed on to blood relations.
Some states and cities in Latin America have passed similar laws, but no other country in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic region has done so at a national level, said Marcela Sanchez, director of the gay rights group Colombia Diversa. She said as many as 300,000 gay couples in Colombia stand to benefit.
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