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Indonesian police nab top extremists

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The head of Southeast Asia's most feared terrorist group was arrested along with his military chief, police said yesterday, 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 Java island, hours after anti-terror police closed in on militant chief, Abu Dujana, said Brigadier General Suryadarma Salim.

Police initially said Wednesday that Dujana was Jemaah Islamiyah's main leader. However, after two days of intensive interrogation, they said Zarkasih held that post.

Like other top Jemaah Islamiyah members, Zarkasih used several aliases and underwent military training in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, where he learned bomb-making and arms handling.

In a videotape shown to reporters, Zarkasih, 45, said he became the group's emergency head in 2005, adding that his selection came amid a police crackdown that has crippled the organization in recent years.

In another videotape, Dujana described himself as "head of the military wing" of Jemaah Islamiyah since 2005.

Jemaah Islamiyah wants to create an Islamic state -- violently if necessary -- across much of Southeast Asia. Its members have long been involved in attacks on minority Christians in eastern Indonesia and fueled an insurgency in the southern Philippines.

A splinter group headed by Malaysian fugitive Noordin Top has been blamed for the 2002 bombings on Indonesia's resort island of Bali; the 2003 and 2004 attacks on the J.W. Marriott Hotel, and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta; and the 2005 triple suicide bombings on restaurants in Bali. The suicide bombings -- some of which police say were carried out with funds and direction from Al Qaeda -- together killed more than 240 people, mostly Western tourists.

Police said Dujana and Zarkasih would be charged with violating anti-terrorism laws in relation to a haul of firearms and explosives seized in central Java earlier this year.

Aided by US and Australian funds and expertise, antiterrorism police have arrested about 300 militants in recent years. Two hundred have been convicted .