Sat, 15 May 2004

Deported militant declared suspect

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta

Police named Abu Jibril, an associate of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, as a suspect on Friday for identity fraud during stays in Yogyakarta and West Nusa Tenggara.

National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said that Jibril, also known as Mohammad Iqbal Abdul Rachman, had been detained at National Police Headquarters immediately after he arrived at Soekarno-Hatta Airport following his deportation from Malaysia on Friday morning.

"We have charged him as a suspect in document forgery. However, we can't link him with any terror acts yet. We will question him intensively at headquarters starting today to see if he has connections with terrorism," said Da'i.

National Police chief of detectives Comr. Gen. Suyitno Landung Soedjono said police investigators had evidence that Jibril had faked his identity when he went to Malaysia in 2000 and gave a false information to obtain identity cards in Yogyakarta and West Nusa Tenggara.

"For the time being, we will charge him with document fraud. If we find enough evidence during the interrogation, we will link him with Ba'asyir and terrorism across the country," said Suyitno.

The officer was referring to Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, the suspected spiritual leader of the al-Qeada-linked Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), who is now in police custody.

Jibril, 46, who has a Malaysian wife, was arrested by the Malaysian authorities for alleged terrorism links in June 2001 under that country's Internal Security Act, which allows suspects to be detained without trial.

He was suspected of being a senior member of the JI network, which is accused of masterminding the Bali bombings in October 2002 that killed 2002 people and JW Marriott Hotel attack in Jakarta in August 2003 that killed 12 people.

Officials also said Jibril may be a close friend of al Qaeda's alleged operations chief in Southeast Asia, Ridwan Ishamuddin, better known as Hambali, who is now in U.S. custody.

As quoted by AFP, terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna of the Singapore-based Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies said that Jibril was a very significant figure in JI.

Rohan put Jibril in the top echelon of the organization along with Ba'asyir and Hambali.

The U.S. State Department last January designated Jibril a terrorist and called him JI's primary recruiter and second in command.

Meanwhile, AFP reported from Malaysia that Jibril's wife and mother of nine children, Fatimah Zaharah, 41, denied the charges saying that her husband was not a terrorist but only a preacher only. She reportedly said that she was very worried because she didn't know what happened to her husband.

AFP also reported that Jibril's lawyer Admund Bon planned to ask the court to rule the deportation illegal. He expressed concern that his client would be persecuted unfairly in Indonesia.