Indonesia: Letter Proves Identity of Local Terror Chief

Indonesian police have obtained a letter that allegedly identifies jailed militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir (search) as the leader of the Al Qaeda-linked terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, a senior intelligence official said Friday.

The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, described the letter as sufficient evidence to bring fresh terror charges against the cleric, who is soon to be released from prison despite protests by Washington and other foreign governments.

Indonesian police, however, declined to comment. They said no decision had been made on reopening the case against Bashir, who is doing time for minor offenses after being cleared by Indonesia's court system of earlier treason and terror counts.

Speaking by phone from his Jakarta jail cell, Bashir branded the letter, which was dated four years ago, as a fake that contained "lies concocted by America."

The intelligence official said the letter was found last year. It was signed by two senior Jemaah Islamiyah (search) members, now in custody, and refers to Bashir as "emir," or leader of the Southeast Asian terror network blamed for several terror attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings.

"Police have confiscated a very important document that proves that Abu Bakar Bashir is the true leader of Jemaah Islamiyah," the official said. "It's enough evidence to give Bashir a new trial."

Bashir is set to be released April 30 after serving 18 months for immigration violations, according to his lawyers. His three-year sentence was cut in half earlier this year on appeal.

Outside governments, including Australia and the United States, claim he has no right to go free and that his release could incite further violence.

The intelligence official said he hoped that publicizing the letter would increase pressure on Indonesia to reopen Bashir's case.

However, Brig. Gen. Sunarko Danu Ardanto, deputy national police spokesman, said police have not yet decided whether to bring new charges.

"We are still studying the information and compiling more evidence that can support the allegations," Sunarko said.

Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for both the October 2002 nightclub bombings on the island of Bali that killed 202 people and the August 2003 bombing of the Jakarta Marriott (search) that killed 12.

The intelligence official said the U.S. and Australian ambassadors met Friday with Indonesia's security minister to request that the case against Bashir be reopened to prevent his release.

Spokesmen at each embassy confirmed that the meeting took place but declined to provide details. The official said the security minister, Hari Sabarno, promised the case would be reopened if sufficient evidence could be obtained but offered no guarantee.

The intelligence official told AP the letter had been sent by two alleged militants who are currently detained in Indonesia: Mustafa, said to be a top Jemaah Islamiyah operative who had trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and his Malaysian deputy, Nasir Abbas.

He said the letter was written from a militant training camp in the southern Philippines under an organization calling itself the Islamic Military Academy.

He said the document provided information on the condition of trainees at the camp.

Bashir was defiant when he talked with the AP by phone from prison on Friday.

"The Indonesian intelligence are all lackeys of America, who will buy off anyone with their dollars," he said. "I have never received the letter. I have never heard of the military academy in the Philippines."

Separately, Ansyaad Mbai, who heads the counterterrorism desk at Indonesia's Coordinating Ministry for Political and Security Affairs, said Friday that terrorists in Indonesia are plotting new attacks to disrupt parliamentary elections set for April 5.

His comments follow similar warnings from top Indonesian officials after police confiscated explosive material and arrested more than two dozen people near Jakarta last weekend following a small blast at a house allegedly being used to host bomb-making classes. No one was injured.