JAKARTA, Indonesia – The alleged field commander in last month's deadly Bali blasts has admitted an association with Al Qaeda's pointman in Southeast Asia, Indonesia's police chief said Wednesday.
Imam Samudra, 40, was arrested last Thursday and, according to police, has confessed to carrying out the Oct. 12 nightclub blasts on Bali that killed more than 190 people.
Earlier, an intelligence official said Samudra was acting on orders from Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, the alleged operations chief of the Al Qaeda linked Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. Hambali remains a fugitive.
"At the beginning he [Samudra] denied knowing Hambali, but when we showed him the evidence he finally admitted to knowing Hambali. He met him in Malaysia," National Police Chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar told reporters in Jakarta.
The revelation strengthens the assertion by Southeast Asian intelligence officials that Jemaah Islamiyah was behind the Bali blasts, the worst terror act since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Hambali has been implicated in operations ranging from logistical support for the Sept. 11 hijackers to bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines.
About 70 alleged members of Jemaah Islamiyah have been arrested in Malaysia, and Indonesian police are trying to determine how many among them are Indonesian citizens, Gen. Erwin Mappaseng, the national chief of detectives, said Wednesday.
Several dozen Jemaah Islamiyah suspects have also been arrested in Singapore.
The group was accused of plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy and other Western targets in Singapore. Its alleged goal is to establish a pan-Islamic "superstate" in Southeast Asia.
Abu Bakar Bashir, a 64-year-old Indonesian cleric, is believed to be the organization's spiritual leader. He was arrested last month after the Bali blasts, but not in relation to that attack.
He is charged with ordering a series of church bombings on Christmas Eve 2000 and with plotting to assassinate President Megawati Sukarnoputri.