Yemeni national a key player in Bali bomb blasts

TERROR IN THE REGION AND BEYOND

The Al-Qaeda operative is suspected of calling the shots on the ground – under the orders of Osama bin Laden.

Two foreigners – a Yemeni and a Malaysian – are suspected to have played a key role in the Bali bombing.

Senior Indonesian intelligence sources told The Straits Times that the two, especially Yemeni national and Al-Qaeda operative Syahfullah, provide clear evidence that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network had a direct hand in the Oct 12 blasts.

They said the 40-year-old Syahfullah, who was known to be responsible for a series of terrorist attacks in the Middle East, particularly the bombing of an American military barracks in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 soldiers, entered Indonesia on a forged United States passport a few days before the bombing.

He is believed to have coordinated the attack with Mukhlas, the elder brother of detained suspect Amrozi, and Imam Samudra, who was arrested by police last week, in what appeared to be the ‘first tier of the operation’s command hierarchy’.

An intelligence source said: ‘Basically, these three individuals hold the key to what happened in Bali. They led a team of seven to 10 foot soldiers’ in executing the attack.

‘But Syahfullah was the key player – the ghost – who was calling the shots on the ground and operating under the orders of Al-Qaeda.’

Intelligence agencies here are now tracking his whereabouts, with sources saying he could either have left the country immediately after the bombing or be seeking refuge ‘somewhere in central Java’.

The Straits Times first highlighted the Yemeni link to the Bali bombing in its report on Nov 10. Syahfullah’s name was given to President Megawati Sukarnoputri in a top-secret document, two days after the blasts, as one of seven suspects. The document also names a Malaysian, Zubair, who fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980s.

Zubair, who was reportedly responsible for surveillance and mapping of the target site weeks before the attack, is a known member of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and the Kumpulan Militan Malaysia.

Officials said the names surfaced from the interrogation of a Muslim radical, Abu Hurairah, who was caught a day after the bombing.

Abu Hurairah is a close friend of Syawal, the son-in-law of the late Abdullah Sungkar, who is one of the co-founders of the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist group.

Syawal, known to have been an instructor at an Al-Qaeda-linked training camp near Poso in Sulawesi, was said to have been also intricately involved in the planning though he was not present at a meeting in Semarang, days before the attack.

The disclosure should widen the investigation beyond Indonesia’s borders.

The police, who have so far arrested Amrozi and Samudra, have been reluctant to concede foreign involvement in the attack.

But Al-Qaeda’s role is becoming more pronounced as agencies here and abroad unravel the terrorist network in Indonesia. It appears to have been financing radicals here for the past three years.

Sources said money was reportedly channelled to Sayam Reda, a 42-year-old German national of Syrian descent, through the Saudi-based Al-Haramain foundation.

Sayam, who had been living in the country since last August and had spent several years in the Bosnia conflict, was believed to have been the ‘paymaster’ of a ring of terrorists in Indonesia.

They included Omar Al-Faruq, now under US custody in Afghanistan, and others like senior JI member Agus Dwikarna, who is serving a 17-year jail sentence.

Indonesian police arrested him three weeks before the Bali tragedy. American and German intelligence seem to have linked him to the broader terrorist network in the region, identifying him as someone possibly even more senior than Al-Faruq. Washington is said to have provided Jakarta surveillance tapes of Sayam distributing arms in strife-torn Maluku. Noted a senior intelligence official: ‘The network here is wider and deeper than many people suspect.’ There is a loose network of little Osamas and foot soldiers in Indonesia – all linked dangerously to extremists in the Middle East.

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