WASHINGTON – Moving against Islamic extremists in Asia linked to the Al Qaeda network, the State Department will list as a terrorist organization a group suspected in the Bali nightclub bombing that killed more than 180 people, a U.S. official said Tuesday.
The Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah, due to be cited Wednesday, has cells operating throughout Southeast Asia. It seeks to create an Islamic state comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the southern Philippines, according to report in May by the State Department's counterterrorism office.
Listing the group as a terrorist organization will make it a crime to contribute funds to it and will bar its members from receiving visas to enter the United States.
Before the explosions on the resort island of Bali on Oct. 12, the Bush administration had moved gingerly in dealing with Indonesia on terrorism.
But President Bush is expected to press for sterner security measures at a meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri at a conference with leaders of Asian and Pacific nations in Mexico this weekend.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said after the blast, "You cannot pretend it [terrorism] doesn't exist in your country."
Powell, who will participate in the meeting this weekend, said he hoped the attack "reinforces Indonesia's determination to deal with this kind of threat."
Jemaah Islamiyah will become the 35th organization branded as a terrorist group by the State Department.
This year's department report on terrorism said recent arrests of group members revealed links with the Al Qaeda terror network.
According to the report, the organization began developing plans in 1997 to target U.S. interests in Singapore.
Last December, Singapore arrested 15 members, some of whom had trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and planned to attack the U.S. and Israeli embassies and British and Australian diplomatic buildings in Singapore, the report said.
Additionally, it said, Singapore police found forged immigration stamps, bomb-making material and Al Qaeda documents in suspects' homes.
Powell had announced a $50 million, three-year anti-terrorism assistance package during visit to Indonesia in August. The Bali bombing could prompt more U.S. help.
The United States had warned Indonesia in early October that it was becoming a home to terrorists. And U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce met with Megawati to press for action against terrorist groups.
Bush, meanwhile, said he hoped to hear in their upcoming meeting "the resolve of a leader that recognizes that any time terrorists take hold in a country it is going to weaken the country itself."
"There has to be a firm and deliberate desire to find the killers before they kill somebody else," he said.
The Bali bombing, which mostly killed Australian tourists, forced Indonesia's government to acknowledge for the first time that Al Qaeda was active in the Southeast Asian archipelago. Some of Indonesia's neighbors, particularly Singapore, had complained Indonesia was reluctant to crack down on Islamic militants.