JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia said Monday it has captured over 200 terrorists in two years, more than any other nation, as it cracks down on militants after a series of attacks in the world's most populous Muslim country.
"No country in the world has caught more terrorists than Indonesia," Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters in the capital Jakarta. "Some of them are in jail or sentenced to death."
Indonesia is seen by the United States as a close ally in the war on terror.
But while most of its 190 million Muslims practice a moderate form of Islam, fundamentalism appears to be gaining a strong foothold, with at least five deadly attacks targeting Western interests since 2002.
More than 240 people have died, many of them Indonesians.
The al Qaida-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for the strikes, including the most deadly bombings on the resort island of Bali and attacks on Jakarta's J.W. Marriott hotel and the Australian Embassy.
Kalla referred to the disastrous effect of the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings on tourism and said all countries will suffer if terrorists are allowed to walk free.
The government has already captured more than 200 militants, he said, and will continue to arrest and try others.
As if to punctuate Kalla's speech, a court sentenced a Muslim militant Monday to seven years in prison for illegal weapons possession and for helping hide Noordin M. Top, who is believed to be a key Jemaah Islamiyah member.
Noordin remains at large. Many of the Bali bombers are in jail, including Abu Bakar Bashir, who is scheduled to walk free in June after nearly 26 months behind bars on charges of conspiracy in the 2002 attacks.
Australia, which lost 88 citizens in the twin nightclub blasts, has repeatedly said the punishment was too lenient.
When asked to comment about Bashir's planned release, Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin told reporters, "if the law says he should be released, he will be released."
"Indonesia is a sovereign country. Therefore there should not be any intervention from the outside," he said.