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Indonesia bomb plot highlights increase of intolerance: analysts

JAKARTA -- The discovery of a bomb plot against the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia indicates that the government's reluctance to tackle a rising tide of intolerance is emboldening Islamist groups, analysts said Monday.

Indonesia has been applauded for a terrorism crackdown launched a decade ago after bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, and there have been no successful attacks against Western targets since suicide blasts on Jakarta hotels in 2009.

However, anti-terror police at the weekend arrested 11 members of an Islamic group allegedly targeting the U.S. Embassy, a consulate in East Java, and a Jakarta building that houses the offices of U.S. mining giant Freeport-McMoran.

Police found explosives and a bomb-making manual when they arrested the men who they said were from a group called HASMI — the Sunni Movement for Indonesian Society — in locations across the main island of Java.

It was the first time that HASMI, which had previously taken part in anti-Christian protests but is not a banned group, had been linked to any violent plots.

“What we are seeing is nonviolent groups taking the next step into violence,” Todd Elliott, a Jakarta-based security analyst at Concord Consulting, told AFP.

The apparent transformation is a sign that hardliners have been encouraged by the authorities' failure to crack down on groups who have targeted minorities, said Noor Huda Ismail from the Institute for International Peace Building.

“There has been an escalation in the transformation of intolerance into terrorism,” he told AFP.

Indonesia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion but rights groups say violence against minorities has been escalating since 2008.

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