- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

JAKARTA, Indonesia Police have arrested a man suspected of masterminding the Bali bombings that killed nearly 200 people last month, Indonesia's chief of intelligence said yesterday.

Imam Samudra, an Afghan-trained militant with reputed links to the al Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah terror group, is said to have planned the Oct. 12 attack and helped build the bombs that exploded outside the Sari Club nightclub and in Paddy's bar.

Mr. Samudra was arrested in the western port town of Merak on Indonesia's main island of Java, A.M. Hendropriyono, chief of the national intelligence agency, told the Associated Press.

Using information from Mr. Samudra's arrested guards, police captured him on a bus pulling up to a ferry bound for the western Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Police were searching for eight other suspects, spokesman Brig. Gen. Edward Aritonang said.

Mr. Samudra's arrest could give authorities information into the workings of Jemaah Islamiyah, which has planned a series of attacks against Western interests in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Samudra, a leading member of the group, was responsible for carrying out the Bali blasts on the orders of Jemaah Islamiyah's operations chief Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, an intelligence official said on the condition of anonymity.

Hambali has been implicated in operations ranging from logistical support for the September 11 hijackers to bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines.

"We hope that through him we can get Hambali," Mr. Hendropriyono said. "I also am confident that the rest of [the suspects] will be caught soon."

National Police Chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said authorities' first break in the case came Tuesday, when they arrested two of Mr. Samudra's guards near his hometown, Serang. The men led them to Mr. Samudra, who was arrested yesterday afternoon.

Police say Mr. Samudra learned bomb-making in Afghanistan and is believed responsible for a series of Indonesian church bombings in 2000. Mr. Samudra, who has at least five aliases, is described by police as a mobile field commander with a university education and a passion for computers.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Samudra taught at a religious school in southern Malaysia run by the suspected leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah.

Police this week released sketches of six of the suspects, raided Islamic boarding schools and swept through rural villages where the suspects were believed to be hiding.

Mr. Samudra was arrested more than two weeks after police captured Amrozi, reportedly one of the bombers, who has provided the names of other suspects and detailed the bombing plot.

Amrozi, who uses only one name, confessed to owning a minivan used in the attack outside the Sari Club and to having obtained bomb-making materials, police say.

"Samudra is a much bigger fish than Amrozi," Mr. Hendropriyono said.

A detained Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, is believed to be the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah.

So far, police have not named Mr. Bashir as a suspect in the Bali bombings, but he was arrested after the attack on charges of masterminding the 2000 church bombings and plotting to assassinate Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

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