- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 20, 2002

JAKARTA, Indonesia The spiritual leader of a militant Islamic group linked to al Qaeda was arrested in his hospital bed yesterday as police accused his fugitive top aide of responsibility for many of Indonesia's terrorist bombings.
Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil stopped short of directly accusing Abu Bakar Bashir of organizing the bloody nightclub attack last week in Bali, but said it was unlikely that he would not have known about many of the country's bomb attacks.
Mr. Matori blamed the nightclub attack on al Qaeda "and its internal network" a reference to Bashir's organization, Jemaah Islamiyah.
Also, al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has been linked to the Bali bombing by the testimony of one of his senior lieutenants, the London Sunday Times reported in its editions today.
Omar al-Faruq, considered to be Bin Laden's envoy in southeast Asia, was arrested in Indonesia in June and handed over to CIA offials in Afghanistan. The Times reported that al-Faruq told CIA interrogators that thousands of dollars from a bank account owned by Bin Laden was used to buy explosives by the militant Islamic group suspected of the attack.
Citing a confidential U.S. intelligence document, the Times said that $74,000 was transferred from an account in the name of Sheik Abu Abdullah Emirati, one of Bin Laden's pseudonyms, to pay for 3 tons of explosives bought from the Indonesian military.
The revelation adds weight to the claim that the Bali bombing was part of an ongoing global terrorist campaign against Western interests.
Al-Faruq was sent by the al Qaeda network to Southeast Asia in the 1990s to establish links with groups fighting for a separate Islamic state, according to the Times.
The paper said that al-Faruq claimed to U.S. interrogators that Bashir received $74,000 from Bin Laden's account. Bashir sent his assistant to purchase explosives illegally sold by the Indonesian army which were then distributed to militant Islamic groups there.
A pair of bombs exploded Oct. 12 outside a Bali nightclub jammed with tourists, setting off a conflagration that left at least 183 persons dead and more than 300 injured.
Bashir, 64, has been hospitalized since Friday with breathing problems. Police arrested him yesterday in the hospital in his hometown of Solo and later accused him of feigning illness, dispatching a team of police doctors to examine him.
"He might be pretending," National Police spokesman Gen. Saleh Saaf said.
Bashir was arrested in connection with a series of church bombings across Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000, in which 19 persons died. He has previously denied involvement in those attacks as well as the Bali bombings and insists the CIA invented Jemaah Islamiyah and al Qaeda as an excuse to persecute Muslims and foment religious violence.
Bashir is likely to be released from Muhammadiyah Hospital in two days, doctors said. Police officials told reporters that questioning would be postponed until then.
It was not clear what would happen to Bashir afterward, but options include confining him to his home and the hospital in Solo or taking him to a police hospital in Jakarta.
Several dozen riot policemen were posted at the hospital to prevent Bashir's students from mounting street protests.
Reuters news agency quoted witnesses as saying that about 300 of the cleric's supporters, mostly teenage students, protested outside the hospital but later dispersed.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Bashir's arrest could lead to a backlash from Muslim radicals, warning this was something "to be very wary of."
Indonesia, which long turned a blind eye to Bashir and Jemaah Islamiyah, fearing an extremist backlash, was pressured into the crackdown by other nations following the Bali bombings.
Bashir was targeted by authorities after a team of Indonesian investigators returned from questioning al-Faruq.
Al-Faruq implicated Bashir in the church bombings and Jemaah Islamiyah. Bashir says he does not know al-Faruq.
Mr. Matori said planning for many bombings in Indonesia fell to Bashir's long-time right-hand man, a militant known as Hambali who is wanted by security agencies across Southeast Asia.
"A lot of information and the progress of our intelligence work confirm that Hambali is Abu Bakar Bashir's vice chairman," Mr. Matori said. "Hambali is a terrorist from Indonesia. He's always been mentioned by those who did bombings in the past as their commander."
"It is illogical if Abu Bakar Bashir says that he doesn't know about the bombings in Indonesia," Mr. Matori added.
Bashir and Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, are accused of running Jemaah Islamiyah, a shadowy group that seeks to create a pan-Southeast Asian Muslim state and is believed to be al Qaeda's main ally in the region.
Hambali is also accused of arranging a meeting of two of the September 11 hijackers and al Qaeda operatives in Malaysia in January 2000. His whereabouts are unknown.
Meanwhile in Bali, police Brig. Gen. Edward Aritonang said investigators had questioned 67 persons in connection with the nightclub blasts, but that there were no formal suspects.
But Mr. Saaf said police were focusing their investigation on eight persons, seven Indonesians and one foreigner.
The London Sunday Telegraph reported today that a female bomber who is believed to have driven the vehicle containing the bomb is being sought by the authorities.
The newspaper quoted Yatim Soyatmo, the Bali police commissioner, as saying several witnesses had claimed seeing a woman leaving the scene moments before the bomb ripped though the crowd.
More than 100 investigators from Australia, the United States, France, Germany and Japan are working in Bali.
President Megawati Sukarnoputri, slow to act against religious militants in the past, on Friday rammed through emergency measures by decree. It was made retroactive to cover those responsible for the Bali bombing.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide