JAKARTA, Indonesia – The alleged mastermind of last month's deadly nightclub bombings in Bali has confessed to planning and executing the attack that killed nearly 200 people, a top investigator said Friday.
"He has already confessed," said Gen. I Made Mangku Pastika, who is heading the investigation.
Police arrested Imam Samudra late Thursday on a bus in the port of Merak on Indonesia's main island of Java as he tried to reach a ferry bound for the western island of Sumatra.
It was the biggest breakthrough of the investigation into the Oct. 12 blasts. Authorities now say they are confident that his remaining accomplices will be captured soon.
Samudra, 35, is reportedly a leading member of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al Qaeda-linked group seeking to impose an Islamic state in Southeast Asia.
Earlier Friday, national police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar and a team of detectives flew by helicopter from Merak to arrange for Samudra's transfer to Jakarta.
Officials said Samudra learned bomb making in Afghanistan and is believed to be a leading member of Jemaah Islamiyah, a group linked to Al Qaeda that is suspected of ordering the Oct. 12 attack.
Police say the 35-year-old Samudra is also is believed to be responsible for a series of church bombings in Indonesia in 2000.
Bachtiar said the first break came Tuesday, when police arrested two of Samudra's guards near his hometown of Serang. The men led them to Samudra, who was caught Thursday afternoon on a bus as it pulled up to a ferry bound for the western Indonesian island of Sumatra.
A man with at least five aliases, police have described Samudra as a mobile field commander with a university education and passion for computers.
In the early 1990s, Samudra taught at a religious school in southern Malaysia run by the suspected leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah.
Samudra carried out the Bali blasts on the orders of the group's operational chief, Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
Hambali has been implicated in operations ranging from logistical support for the Sept. 11 hijackers to bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines.
"We hope that through him we can get Hambali," said A.M. Hendropriyono, the head of the national intelligence agency. "I also am confident that the rest of [the suspects] will be caught soon."
Samudra's arrest could give authorities much-needed clues into the workings of Jemaah Islamiyah, which has planned a series of attacks against Western interests in Southeast Asia.
Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Edward Aritonang said police were searching for eight other suspects.
Police this week released sketches of six of the suspects, raided Islamic boarding schools and swept through rural villages where they were believed to be hiding.
Samudra's arrest comes more than two weeks after police arrested an Indonesian named Amrozi, who named the other suspects and detailed the bombing plot. Amrozi has confessed to owning a minivan used in the attack outside the Sari Club and to having obtained the bomb-making materials, police say.
The spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to be Abu Bakar Bashir, a detained Muslim cleric.
Bashir was arrested after the Bali attack on separate charges of masterminding the church bombings in 2000 and plotting to assassinate President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Police have not identified Bashir as a suspect in the Bali bombings, but an intelligence official who asked not to be named said there is evidence linking the cleric to the bombings.
Bashir denies the allegations.