Friday, April 9, 2010

JAKARTA, Indonesia | It plays out like any ordinary chat between friends on Yahoo Messenger, but the subject matter is chilling: “thekiller” is looking to mesh his Indonesian militant network more deeply with al Qaeda in its Pakistani heartland.

“Come to Pak,” he is told by “SAIF-a,” the Pakistani at the other end. “The seniors say, send one of your boys here to represent your group.”

But beware, “SAIF-a” warns. With the U.S. stepping up its rocket attacks, “The brothers are very worried, in Waziristan all missiles hit very accurately. It means someone inside is involved.”

The exchange appears in transcripts of Internet chat sessions recovered from the computer of Muhammad Jibriel, identified in the documents as the man suspected of using the screen name “thekiller.” Jibriel, a 26-year-old Indonesian and well-known propagandist for al Qaeda, is currently on trial, accused of helping fund last year’s twin suicide bombings at luxury hotels in his country’s capital, Jakarta. He claims the transcripts are fabricated.

The 40 pages of conversations are in a police dossier that provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Jemaah Islamiyah, Southeast Asia’s main extremist group, suggesting it and allied networks in the region have more international links than was previously assumed.

Since the chats took place, from mid- to late-2008, a sustained crackdown on Southeast Asian groups has continued, resulting in the arrest of Jibriel and the execution of the man identified in the police dossier as one of his most prominent conversationalists.

But the chats refer to other people engaged in contact with international extremists, and experts think such ties likely continue.

“The transcripts are a wake-up call,” said Sidney Jones, a leading international expert on Southeast Asian terrorist groups. “They show that Indonesian links to Pakistani and Middle Eastern terror groups are real and dangerous, even if limited to a few individuals.”

The 800-page police dossier was given to lawyers and judges involved in Jibriel’s juryless trial, but is not part of the indictment. It was obtained by the Associated Press from someone close to Indonesian law enforcement who requested anonymity because the disclosure is sensitive.

Indonesian police declined to discuss the chat sessions, or say whether any Indonesian militants had left for Pakistan since the conversations took place.

The participants talk about sending money and recruits to al Qaeda. They discuss in detail the progress of a credit card fraud involving several Western banks to fund terrorist activities. They refer to allied militant cells or contacts in Cairo, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

The chats are in a mix of Indonesian, English, Urdu and Arabic. Some of what is said seems to be in code. Slang, shorthand and “smiley face” emoticons stud the text.

The communications take an extraordinary turn as they are joined by “istisyhad,” identified in the police dossier as Imam Samudra, a mastermind of the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing. At the time of the chats, he was on death row, yet he was communicating from his cell on a smuggled laptop.

The police dossier says Jibriel used several aliases to talk to Samudra, even seeking advice on his turbulent relationship with a militant sympathizer he wants to marry. At one point he asks Samudra “to pray that she and I stay strong and become a great jihad partnership.”

In another chat, he offers to help Samudra keep in touch with al Qaeda from death row. “If you want to send an e-mail to AQ directly there, I can arrange that,” he writes. Samudra was executed by firing squad in 2009.

Jemaah Islamiyah was formed by Indonesians after they returned home from fighting and training in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the 1980s and 1990s. After 9/11, when al Qaeda began expanding into Southeast Asia, it used those connections to send money and expertise and to recruit volunteers, but was assumed to have largely given up after the crackdown that followed the Bali bombings.

c AP writer Irwan Firdaus contributed to this report from Jakarta.

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