Pieces of Bali puzzle falling into place

Arrest of Amrozi has led to uncovering of a well-planned plot by Al-Qaeda and local terrorists to hit Westerners
in S-E Asia.

A few days before the Bali bombing, a Yemen national quietly slipped into Indonesia.

The 40-year-old terrorist, acting on the orders of his Al-Qaeda masters, had a very important mission: lead a team of eight

Indonesians and a Malaysian (suspected of having links to the radical Kumpulan Militan Malaysia) to carry out the worst terrorist attack in Indonesia’s history.

Sources involved in the investigation said the trail of the militants could be traced to Semarang in Central Java – the ‘rendezvous point’.

They met two days before the attack on Oct 12 to finalise details before some of them departed for Bali, where they were joined in Kuta by Amrozi, a 30-year-old mechanic.

The Yemeni, who was known to be responsible for a string of explosions in Yemen and the Middle East, gave the final go-ahead for the attack and left as quietly as he had come in: by taking the last flight out of Bali on Oct 12.

The other members of the team dispersed quickly, seeking safe haven in parts of eastern Indonesia, Lombok, Flores and even Irian Jaya.

One hundred and ninety-one dead. Mission accomplished.

US sources said planning for the bombing might have begun as early as January.

Mohamed Mansour Jabar, an Al-Qaeda activist now being held in the US, told his FBI interrogators that an Al-Qaeda bomber known as Saad, who had trained for a suicide mission, attended a meeting with bomb makers and members of the Jemaah Islamiah in southern Thailand.

Saad was brought to the meeting by terrorist suspect and JI operative Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali. The plotters decided to bomb ‘soft’ targets across South-east Asia such as nightclubs, restaurants and bars frequented by Westerners. Interestingly, the meeting took place just after the Al-Qaeda terrorist network issued a fatwa or decree to attack ‘whorehouses and nightclubs’ in the region.

Al-Qaeda’s own bombers may have been used in the Bali attack because previous operations planned by JI with minimal outside help had failed. But JI and local operatives were very much involved in scouting the region for months before targeting Bali.

They benefited from Middle East funding – as much as US$200,000 (S$354,000).

Intelligence sources in the region suspect that the Saudi-based Al-Haramain foundation, branches of which were linked by Washington this year with terrorist financing, was a key conduit for Al-Qaeda money into the region.

The organisation had been funding JI operations in Indonesia since 1999, with a branch set up in the country. Its leader, Sheikh Bandar, had a second wife in Surabaya, East Java, whom he visited often. He was also in touch with Kuwaiti Omar Al-Faruq, now detained in Afghanistan.

Money was reportedly funneled to Sayam Reda, a 42-year-old German national of Syrian descent, who had been living in the country since last year. Indonesian police arrested him three weeks before the Bali tragedy.

The stocky-built Sayam was believed to have been the ‘paymaster’ of a ring of terrorists in Indonesia that included Omar Al-Faruq and others, like senior JI member Agus Dwikarna, who is serving a 17-year jail sentence.

Through Sayam, other names and personalities are sprouting up, like Gorib, Rasyid, Naser Nouval and Redu Makasar, alias Daeng Lao.

All of them are on the run.

Did they have a hand in Bali? Did they use Al-Haramain’s funds to put in place a team of 10 for the deadly attack? Who else is involved?

These questions are still unanswered.

But the Bali bombing is a big jigsaw puzzle whose pieces are slowly falling into place.

For weeks, the Indonesian police, caught up in a bitter rivalry with other security agencies here, made no headway thanks to foot-dragging and several embarrassing gaffes.

They are now beginning to unravel the complex network behind Indonesia’s worst terrorist attack.

The recent capture of Amrozi, a 30-year-old part-time mechanic, was a breakthrough. For the first time, someone directly involved in the bombing had been caught.

His confession also lent credence to tangible links between the Bali bombing, the Al-Qaeda and its JI allies.

For a second day yesterday, police raided homes in a farm village in East Java province where he lived. They also searched an apartment allegedly rented by him in Bali, finding his fingerprints and residue of explosives.

Police have detained a principal of a boarding school in the East Java village and a shop owner where Amrozi allegedly bought bomb-making chemicals. They are now looking for his brothers, Ali Imron and Gufron.

There are still many more pieces that need to fall into place. A government official close to the probe noted: ‘It is an intricate and complex puzzle.’

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