Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Police confirm Asmar's JI ties

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Police have confirmed the link between Asmar Latin Sani, the man who allegedly drove the car that carried the bomb used in the JW Marriott Hotel attack, and the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist network, saying the 28-year-old belonged to a JI squad led by Mustofa.

National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said on Tuesday that Asmar, whose severed head was found on the fifth floor of the hotel, was a member of Mustofa's squad.

"But I have no idea what kind of squad it was. Asmar was on our wanted list along with other suspects, some of whom have been arrested," he said.

A police source said Mustofa led a khos (special) suicide squad believed to have between 10 and 15 members.

Mustofa -- who has numerous aliases, including Pranata Yuda, Abu Tholut, Yono and Imron -- is believed to be the former head of the JI state-level area called Mantiqi Thalid (III), which oversees Sulawesi, Sabah and Mindanao.

He was allegedly serving as the leader of the JI headquarters in Jakarta when he was arrested in Kaliabang, north Bekasi, early last month. During the same period that Mustofa was detained, police also arrested between July 4 and July 9 a total of nine suspected JI members in Semarang, Central Java.

Mustofa allegedly was the owner of almost two tons of explosives found at a rented house in Semarang.

He told police that he received military training in Afghanistan in 1987 and 1988, and served as a trainer at the Al Islami Al Jamaah training camp in the southern Philippines in 1997 and 1998.

National Police chief of detectives, Comr. Gen. Erwin Mappaseng, said Asmar was among the suspects being sought by police following the arrest of the nine suspects in Semarang.

"We were searching for him (Asmar) when we arrested Toni Togar's group in Pekanbaru, Riau and Medan, North Sumatra. But we failed to find him. When we arrested Mustofa, he (Asmar) was also included (on the wanted list)," he said, declining to confirm if Asmar was a member of Mustofa's alleged suicide squad.

Erwin also declined to comment on a report that Asmar harbored two key suspects in last year's Bali bombings -- Dr. Azhari and Dulmatin -- at his home in Bengkulu.

"That is the direction we are going in. We are investigating if they were connected," he said.

Erwin said the police had completed about 90 percent of their investigation at the Marriott blast site.

"We are going to proceed with the most difficult part of the investigation, which is chasing the suspects," he said.

Also on Tuesday, a suspicious brown suitcase was found near the Darul Abror Mosque in the National Atomic Energy Agency housing complex in Rawa Bambu, Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta.

Eyewitnesses said two people riding a motorcycle left the suitcase near the mosque at 10 a.m.

They reported the incident to the local police, who contacted the Jakarta Police's bomb squad.

At 11:30 a.m., eight bomb squad officers led by First Insp. Triadimus detonated the suspicious suitcase.

There was no immediate word on what the suitcase contained.