Strange bedfellows deliver tsunami aid

By Jeff Horwitz

Published January 10, 2005 11:20PM (EST)

"If we don't help, who will?" It's often the argument used to champion American involvement in humanitarian efforts, but today's Los Angeles Times brings up the opposite rationale for why the U.S. should give its all to tsunami relief: If we don't help, someone else will.

"Hundreds of Muslim militants, best known for smashing up Jakarta discos or advocating Islamic rule, have poured into devastated Aceh province with the help of the Indonesian military to aid in disaster relief," the Times notes. The Times says the militants have set up camp at the same Indonesian military air base in Banda Aceh that U.S. Navy helicopters are using to deliver aid to tsunami victims.

"So far," the Times says, "the two sides have kept their distance. But the militants' presence and their apparent plan to develop long-term influence here could complicate efforts to bring peace to a region long troubled by a separatist conflict and make the province a religious battleground."

One organization lending a helping hand, the Indonesian Mujahedin Council, is thought to have connections with al-Qaida; the Times says that its former leader is being tried in Jakarta for involvement in the 2002 bombing of a Bali nightclub that killed hundreds. Just as U.S. aid comes with some ulterior motives, the Indonesian Mujahedin Council apparently has plans to deliver something more than aid to tsunami victims. The Times says the group intends to provide "religious preaching, to keep up the spirit of the people."

Jeff Horwitz

MORE FROM Jeff Horwitz

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room