JAKARTA, Indonesia — Jailed radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has sent a letter to Myanmar's president threatening to attack the country over the persecution of Muslim Rohingya, a spokesman for his group said Sunday.
"We are brothers as Muslims, their pains are our pains, their sorrows are our sorrows ... we don't want to hear their cries, we don't want any drop of blood spilled from Muslims," Bashir wrote to President Thein Sein in the letter. "We can destroy you and your country."
Violence in June between Rohingya and Rakhine Buddhists in western Myanmar left at least 78 dead and tens of thousands homeless. Many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar consider the Rohingya to be illegal settlers from neighboring Bangladesh. The United Nations says about 800,000 Rohingya live in Myanmar and it considers them to be among the most persecuted people in the world.
Son Hadi bin Muhadjir, spokesman for Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid – an organization founded by Bashir and designated a terrorist group by the U.S. in February – confirmed the letter was delivered to the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta last week and posted online.
"We've heard Muslims screaming in your country because of your barbarous acts ... (you) burned their homes, forbade worship and slaughtered them like animals," the letter said.
Calls to the Myanmar Embassy went unanswered Sunday.
Bashir, 74, is known as the spiritual leader of al-Qaida-linked militants blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings and a string of other deadly attacks in Indonesia. He is serving a 15-year jail sentence for setting up a terror training camp in western Indonesia.
"Our leader, Bashir, is doing this because he wants to strike fear in the hearts of Myanmar's leaders and their people who behave in such a way," Son Hadi said. "If they refuse to stop what they're doing, we're ready to fight in a noble way."
He refused to say whether the group planned to send anyone to Myanmar. In the past, Bashir has issued verbal warnings against countries such as the U.S. that have waged war in Muslim countries.
Indonesia, a secular nation with more Muslims than any other in the world, has a long history of religious tolerance, though a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years.
Rallies protesting abuses against the Rohingya have been growing in Indonesia. Calls have also been mounting for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to emphasize Indonesia's commitment to promote human rights and stop violence against the Rohingya.
Yudhoyono on Saturday urged calm over the Rohingya issue and said most Indonesians have misunderstood the problems in Myanmar.
"It's not true, there is no sign of genocide there," he said. "The Myanmar government has showed its efforts to resolve the conflict there in an open and transparent way."
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said even though the conflict involves two different religious groups, Indonesia wants to focus on human rights.
Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, Nahdhatul Ulama, said most Indonesians wrongly believe the conflict in Myanmar is religious-based.
"I call on all Indonesian Muslims to calm down, don't let yourself be provoked to fight against other faiths," Siradj said.