KL fugitive behind Jakarta bomb blast?

Azahari Husin also designed bombs in last year’s Bali blasts.

Malaysian terrorist fugitive Azahari Husin may have masterminded the deadly bomb attack in Jakarta last week.

The Straits Times understands that he and Indonesian electronics expert Dul Matin, alias Noval, played a key role in designing the car bomb that ripped through the American-run JW Marriott Hotel, killing 11 and injuring 150.

Well-placed sources said that for the past three months, the pair were in regular contact with several Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militants in Sumatra who were involved in the Christmas Eve bombings of churches in Pekanbaru and Medan in 2000.

This Malaysian connection prompted Jakarta to send a team of investigators to Kuala Lumpur within 24 hours of the blast.

Authorities in KL have been reported as saying that in recent months, both Dul Matin and Azahari had been harboured by Asmar Latinsani, the bomb blast suspect whose severed head was found close to the site of the attack.

‘There is speculation that Azahari masterminded this attack,’ a counterterrorism official said. ‘He might have made three or four bombs, one of which was used for the Marriott. The other bombs are still out there, possibly in Jakarta.’

Azahari, a trained engineer and a former university lecturer, also designed the bomb that destroyed two nightclubs in Bali.

Investigators have noted startling similarities with last October’s Bali attack, lending credence to JI’s involvement in the Marriott bombing. The materials used were the same – a cocktail, including TNT and potassium chlorate, a fertiliser compound.

Last month, police seized a large cache of ammunition and weapons, as well as enough chemicals and explosives in Semarang in Central Java to make a bomb 10 times more potent than the one used in Bali. One of the greatest concerns authorities have at the moment is that materials used to make the deadly explosives had already found their way to Jakarta, and are in the hands of another JI terrorist cell led by religious cleric Zulkarnaen. The cell is believed to be planning another major attack in Indonesia in four or five months.

Azahari, who is on KL’s list of 10 most wanted persons, was described by a regional security source as ‘a hardliner prepared to make personal sacrifices to see that he achieves his terrorist objective’.

‘His wife is dying of cancer, but he left her with the parting words that he had the greater cause of God to serve,’ the source said. ‘It reveals the depth of ideological and religious indoctrination these people have gone through.’

Azahari is known to have conducted bomb-making classes. His partner in crime is Dul Matin, also known in his circle as ‘the genius’. Together, they made the Bali bombs.

Dul Matin sent the text messages to the cellphone that triggered two bombs in Bali. The same detonation method was used in the Marriott bombing.

Sources here believe that the 38-year-old Dul Matin was the lead man organising and coordinating the Marriott attack.

An Indonesian intelligence source told The Straits Times: ‘Dul Matin is very close to Azahari and his best student. He is ready to execute Azahari’s orders any time.’

Despite JI’s growing decentralisation, key decisions were still made by a group including Azahari and fellow Malaysian Noordin Mohd Top, Zulkarnaen and, most important, Al Qaeda’s point man in the region, Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali.

‘All individual terror cells report to him,’ said a source close to the radical Muslim ground. ‘Hambali sanctions all attacks and leaves it to the Azaharis and Dul Matins to plan. He is the brains and the undisputed leader of the network now.’

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