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Southeast Asia

In Indonesia, the world’s largest Islamic nation, social chaos and rising Islamic fundamentalism since the collapse of the Suharto military dictatorship have provided a rich recruiting ground for Osama bin Laden. The Laskar Jihad fundamentalist group is fighting Christians in the Molucca Islands. Bin Laden is believed to have funneled money to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the southern Philippines, where the Abu Sayyaf group professes to be fighting for a Muslim homeland in the mostly Catholic country, but kidnapping for ransom is its main activity.

Malaysia has a small Islamic guerrilla movement, and two of the suspected Sept. 11 hijackers traveled to Malaysia to meet bin Laden operatives linked to the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

Population: Indonesia (228 million, fourth largest in the world); Philippines (82 million); Malaysia (22 million).

Area: Indonesia (741.100 square miles); Philippines (116,000 square miles, slightly larger than Arizona); Malaysia (127,100 square miles, slightly larger than New Mexico).

Religion: Indonesia (Muslim 88%, Protestant 5%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 2%, Buddhist 1%, other 1%; (1998) Philippines (Roman Catholic 83%, Protestant 9%, Muslim 5%, Buddhist and other 3%).


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