Officials Say Bali Bomb Suspect Has Al Qaeda Ties

Published November 09, 2002

| Associated Press

The prime suspect in the Bali blast confessed he had visited Afghanistan, Indonesian intelligence officials said Saturday, adding he may have met with members of a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda while in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, police spokesman Brig. Gen. Edward Aritonang said a chemical store owner detained Friday in connection with the Oct. 12 blast has been named a suspect for selling bomb-making materials from his shop.

Police spread out across Indonesia looking for as many as 10 other suspects and raided homes in the village of the first suspect, known as Amrozi.

Amrozi admitted owning the L300 Mitsubishi minivan that was filled with at least 110 pounds of explosives and blew up outside a packed nightclub on Bali, killing nearly 200 people. He also told police that he was a field commander for the group behind the blast, officials said.

Since his arrest, police said Amrozi has also confessed to involvement in a string of terror attacks in Indonesia including the bombing of the Jakarta Stock Exchange in 2000 that killed 15 people. He also acknowledged meeting the alleged leaders of an Al Qaeda-linked terror network.

Maj. Gen. I Made Mangku Pastika, the top investigator, did not say who Amrozi was working for, but said his younger brother, identified only as Mukhlas, was a member of Jemaah Islamiyah.

The search for suspects in the blast increasingly focused on Jemaah Islamiyah -- the terror group whose alleged aim is to form a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

Intelligence officials said Amrozi has confessed to visiting a number of Asian countries including Afghanistan. It was not immediately known when or why Amrozi visited that country.

But last week, Pastika said he thought Indonesians trained in Afghanistan or Libya were behind the bombing, citing the planning and expertise that was required for the attack.

Aritonang said Friday that Amrozi admitted he knows two Muslim clerics: Riduan Isamudin -- also known as Hambali -- and Abu Bakar Bashir, said to be the leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah.

Police recently arrested the 64-year-old Bashir, the alleged spiritual leader of the group, on suspicion of involvement in a string of church bombings three years ago. So far, police have not named him as a suspect in the Bali attack.

Amrozi's neighbors said he went to Malaysia in the late 1980s to work in construction and the tourism industry. Intelligence sources believe he met with Jemaah Islamiyah members while he was there.

In their investigation, police have detained more than two dozen people for questioning -- most because they resemble composite sketches of four suspects.

Among those detained are the principal of Tenggulun's Al Islam school, where Amrozi was a frequent visitor, and the owner of a shop in Surabaya, East Java's capital, where Amrozi allegedly bought chemicals used in the Bali blasts, police said.

The shop owner, Silvestor Tendean, has now been named a suspect by East Java police for selling explosives -- some of which may have been used in the Bali blast, Aritonang said.

But Aritonang said Tendean remained only a witness in the Bali blast.

The investigator said Amrozi led authorities to a residence where a forensic unit found residue of the explosives used in the bombings.

Pastika said detectives believe that six to 10 people were involved in the two simultaneous nightclub bombs that turned one of Asia's most frequented tourist destinations into an inferno. He said police have the names and identities of the suspects.

Police on Friday raided three homes of Amrozi's friends and relatives in Tenggulun. They searched at least two more on Saturday. Officers said they were looking for explosives as well as two of Amrozi's brothers whom they believe played a part in the bombing.

They found neither, with villagers saying the brothers had fled.

In Bali, police searched a third-floor apartment in a residential neighborhood in Denpasar that Amrozi supposedly rented for two days. They said they found fingerprints that matched Amrozi's and residue of explosives they believed were used in the blast.

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