Fri, 31 Jan 2003

Central Java home to JI's HQ since 1999: Pastika

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

The regional Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) terror group, reportedly linked to the Bali blasts, moved its headquarters in 1999 from Malaysia to Surakarta, Central Java, where its alleged spiritual leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir lives, police said on Thursday.

The chief investigator of the Bali bombings, Insp. Gen. I Made Mangku Pastika, said the transfer of JI's base followed the 1999 return of Ba'asyir to Indonesia from Malaysia after the downfall of former president Soeharto the year before.

Documents found in a rented house in Surakarta showed that Ba'asyir, the 64-year-old cleric, played a role in the clandestine group's operations in Indonesia, including the Bali attacks that killed over 190 people last October, Pastika said.

But Pastika said the police were still gathering more evidence to declare Ba'asyir a suspect in the bombings. "We have evidence that he was involved in the Bali tragedy, especially because he is a leader of JI," he said.

"Based on JI's basic guidelines, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, as the leader of the group, must have received reports of every jihad (holy war) operation in the field," he said.

Ba'asyir, who is in police custody for his alleged role in a string of church bombings in 2000 and a plot to kill President Megawati Soekarnoputri, has been called a possible suspect in the Bali blasts by police.

JI is also believed to have been involved in the sectarian violence which rocked the Maluku islands and the Central Sulawesi town of Poso, Pastika said without giving further details.

His comments will likely be followed up by relevant authorities to further intensify and widen their hunt for other supporters of the network in the country.

Among the 16 suspects being detained in connection with the Bali blasts are several JI members, including Imam Samudra, Mukhlas, alias Ali Ghufron, and his younger brother Amrozi.

Police have described Mukhlas as the controller of the Bali attack and said he was JI's operations chief. Police said Samudra was the alleged field commander, while Amrozi was the man responsible for providing bomb-making materials and the van used for the blasts.

Pastika said the police were searching for Zulkarnaen, alias Arif Sunarso or Daud, whom the chief investigator referred to as Ba'asyir's right-hand man who led JI's armed force, Laskari Islamiyah.

Another man on the list of 10 wanted suspects was Saad, alias Achmad Roichan, who Pastika said knew JI's finances.

Saad rented a house, adjacent to Ba'asyir's home, in the hamlet of Laweyan in Surakarta, Pastika said, adding that it was not known whether the rented house was also used as JI's base.

He said the other suspects who remain at large, including alleged bombmaker Dul Matin, are believed to have more information on JI's flow of funds and its operations in Indonesia.

Referring to intelligence reports, Pastika said the goal of JI was to establish a sovereign Islamic archipelago, covering Malaysia, Indonesia, the southern Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and southern Cambodia.

The documents found in Surakarta also contained reports of the training of militants at sites around the city, he said.

In a related development, the police handed back on Thursday Amrozi's case file to prosecutors who will outline the charges made against him.

Sr. Comr. Zainuri Lubis, the spokesman for Pastika's investigative team, said the police had added information to the 1,800-page case file after an initial review by prosecutors. Before it was returned to investigators, it contained 1,623 pages of evidence.

The additional information included testimonies from other suspects, particularly Amrozi's younger brother Ali Imron, who is the latest suspect to be taken into custody.

Amrozi was the first suspect to be detained on Nov. 5. His arrest was considered the first major break in the probe into the country's worst terrorist attack.

He and other key suspects are expected to go on trial in February under antiterrorism laws that carry the death penalty.

Zainuri said the police should have submitted Samudra's case file on Thursday to prosecutors, arguing that it was postponed because the investigators had yet to complete its draft.

Zainuri also said a man identified as Faturrahman, who was given the explosives by Abdul Rauf -- another Bali blast suspect who was Samudra's alleged bodyguard -- has been arrested by police in Serang, Banten.

However, Faturrahman was not among the 10 suspects wanted in connection with the Bali attacks, Lubis added.