Published November 02, 2002
JAKARTA, Indonesia – A man resembling the composite sketch of a suspect in the Bali nightclub bombings that killed nearly 200 people has been arrested, the chief investigator said Saturday.
The man, identified only by the initials R.S., was detained Thursday at a bus terminal in the town of Bajawa on Flores island, about 310 miles east of Bali, Police Maj. Gen. I Made Pastika said.
On Friday he was flown to Denpasar, the capital of Bali, for questioning, Pastika said. The man, in his 30s and with shoulder-length hair, tried to hide his face with a newspaper when police picked him up at the bus terminal, district police chief Lt. Col. Victor Edison Simandjuntak said.
"He is refusing to answer many of our questions," he said.
Police said R.S. was a resident of Jakarta but was born in Ambon, the capital of Indonesia's Maluku islands.
Investigators said R.S. told them that he was vacationing in Flores and was in Bajawa looking for a hotel to stay the night.
Meanwhile, police spent five hours questioning the alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, the Islamic group that is emerging as a prime suspect in the attack. The Muslim cleric refused to answer questions and police said they would talk with him again Sunday.
Abu Bakar Bashir, 64, has been hospitalized for what he says is a respiratory ailment since his Oct. 18 arrest. Police are trying to question him about bombings on churches in Christmas 2000 and an alleged plot to kill President Megawati Sukarnoputri, though he has not been implicated in the Bali blasts.
Bashir's lawyer, Achmad Michdan, said investigators asked Bashir about his involvement in Islamic organizations and alleged immigration law violations in Malaysia, but he refused to answer, saying his arrest was illegal.
Bashir fled to Malaysia when Indonesian authorities tried to arrest him in 1985 for campaigning to establish traditional Sharia Islamic law. He returned in 1999, after the fall of former dictator Suharto.
The manhunt for those behind the Bali bombings is also taking place on Indonesia's main island of Java. Police raiding a house found a photograph matching a police sketch of one of three suspects whose faces appeared in composite sketches released earlier this week.
Indonesian Defense Minister Matori Abdul Jalil has accused the Al Qaeda terror network of being involved in the bombings.
Neighboring Australia and other countries have identified Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al Qaeda-linked organization, as the likely culprit.
Indonesian authorities have largely refrained from cracking down on Muslim militants, fearing a backlash. Bashir arrest has prompted angry protests from Islamic radicals.