Indonesian police arrest top cleric over terror connections

 Indonesia's counter-terrorism force Densus 88 arrested one of the country's leading Muslim clerics over suspected connections with the al-Qaida-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), police said on Wednesday.

Ahmad Zain An-Najah is a member of the southeast Asian country's Ulema Council, an umbrella group of religious organizations made up of Islamic scholars. He is believed to have close ties with the terror group and to have funded their activities.

Ahmad was arrested in Jakarta on Tuesday, along with two associates, following a police raid, national police spokesperson Rusdi Hartono said.

The cleric has been accused of starting a charitable organization "for education, social activities... some of the funds are used to mobilize JI," Rusdi said.

Returning militants launch attacks at home

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-majority country. It has been dealing with a series of militant attacks, many of which have been connected to locals who have returned from Iraq and Syria where they fought for the so-called "Islamic State."

The militant Islamist group stands accused of being behind the 2002 nightclub bombings on the island of Bali that killed 200 people.

They are also believed to have been behind a series of recent attacks in both Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Indonesian government has taken a hard stance against militant Islamism in the country and banned several groups with suspected connections.

Charity tied with Islamist party

Ahmad's charity was active in cities on the major islands of Java and Sumatra, police said.

Officials had already frozen the organization's assets earlier in the month and arrested its leader, German news agency KNA reported.

The co-chair of the Islamist party PDRI — seen as a cover organization for JI — was also arrested at the same time as Ahmad, local news source Ucanews said.

The cleric is also an alumnus of a religious school founded by a high-up member of JI, an Indonesian official told CNN Indonesia.



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