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AWSJ: Alleged Bomb Maker Is Linked to al Qaeda Network?
By Timothy Mapes

24/1/2002 4:08 pm Thu

[Kita siarkan rencana ini kerana ada banyak pengajarannya. Lihatlah bagaimana hujung pangkal 'cerita' ini bermula dari runtuhan di Afghanistan sebelum ia berjangkit ke dua buah negara yang menjadi sekutu kuat Amerika - Filipina dan Singapura. Sekarang 'cerita' ini sedang memasukki Malaysia tetapi hanya orang yang ditemui tetapi barangnya tidak diketahui di mana. Sekarang ia dikatakan berada di Pulau Batam Indonesia (STS). Mengapa agaknya cerita ini asyik berpindah sahaja?

'Meantime, four metric tons of ammonium nitrate that the Jemaah Islamiyah members allegedly planned to use in truck bombs to attack U.S. targets in Singapore may now be on the Indonesian island of Batam, Singapore's Straits Times paper reported, citing unidentified sources.

Malaysian authorities said last week the chemicals, which were stored in the country, had vanished. The suspects planned to buy 17 more tons of the compound in Singapore.' - Bloomberg
- Editor

The Asian Wall Street Journal
24 January 2002

Alleged Bomb Maker for Militants Is Linked to al Qaeda Network



JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The alleged bomb maker for militants plotting attacks on U.S. targets in Singapore studied at an Islamic school run by Abu Bakar Baasyir, the Indonesian cleric accused by Singapore of leading an al Qaeda-linked terrorist network in Southeast Asia.

Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, a 30-year-old Indonesian arrested last week in the Philippines' capital city, studied for four years at the Al-Mukmin boarding school in Solo, on the island of Java, said Abdul Hadi, the school's registrar, and Mohammad Zaenuri, Mr. Al-Ghozi's father.

Al-Mukmin was founded in 1974 by Mr. Abu Bakar, a 63-year-old teacher who has campaigned to impose strict Islamic law in Indonesia. Mr. Abu Bakar is scheduled to be questioned Thursday by Indonesian police regarding his alleged role in the Jemaah Islamiyah, a purported terrorist group that spans Southeast Asia and has ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

Ties Among Militant Groups

Mr. Al-Ghozi's attendance at Al-Mukmin is the latest connection to surface linking Mr. Abu Bakar to alleged Islamic radicals recently arrested in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. His case illustrates the complex web of ties among militant groups in Southeast Asia and also might point to connections to West Asian counterparts, security officials say. After graduating from Mr. Abu Bakar's school in 1989, Mr. Al-Ghozi moved to Pakistan to continue his Islamic studies, partially with funding through a scholarship from Al-Mukmin, his father said.

In addition to Singapore's allegations against him, Malaysian police want Mr. Abu Bakar for his alleged involvement in terrorist activities there. He has repeatedly denied any connection to the terrorist suspects detained in Malaysia and Singapore or to al Qaeda. However, Mr. Abu Bakar has acknowledged that he is an acquaintance of another Indonesian militant also wanted by Kuala Lumpur, Riduan Isamuddin, who is better known as Hambali. Mr. Riduan's whereabouts aren't known.

Mr. Abu Bakar told a news conference on Wednesday that he will meet with police Thursday to clear up the allegations against him. He declined to respond to questions. Achmad Michdan, who leads a team of 20 lawyers defending Mr. Abu Bakar, said he needed to look into Mr. Al-Ghozi's case further, but added that he apparently studied at Al-Mukmin while Mr. Abu Bakar was in Malaysia.

Any questioning of Mr. Abu Bakar by Indonesian police will mark Jakarta's first official attempt to investigate his alleged terrorist ties, although police have had informal contact with him and his lawyer in recent days. In the past, Indonesian police have declined to detain or question Mr. Abu Bakar, saying they had no evidence of wrongdoing by the cleric.

Cautious Investigations

Indonesia has annoyed its neighbors by moving extremely cautiously to investigate Indonesians allegedly involved in terrorist groups abroad. President Megawati Sukarnoputri's government is worried that a crackdown on domestic Islamic militant groups could trigger a political backlash. Leaders of some mainstream Islamic organizations have publicly warned Ms. Megawati that arresting local radicals could have serious repercussions for her fragile coalition government.

Mr. Al-Ghozi was arrested in Manila on Jan. 15. Philippine police accuse him of being the key bomb maker for the Jemaah Islamiyah, a group that Singapore security officials allege has cells throughout Southeast Asia. Singapore police arrested 13 alleged Jemaah Islamiyah members last month, accusing them of plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy and other American targets there.

The Singapore government says Mr. Abu Bakar leads the Jemaah Islamiyah. Malaysian police separately have alleged that Mr. Abu Bakar, who worked as an Islamic teacher in that country in the 1980s and 1990s, was a key figure in a Malaysian militant group. Mr. Abu Bakar moved to Malaysia after being jailed for several years in Indonesia under former President Suharto's government for his political activities there.

According to acquaintances in Indonesia, suspected bomb-maker Mr. Al-Ghozi maintained his ties to Mr. Abu Bakar after leaving the latter's religious school. Mr. Abdul, the Al-Mukmin school registrar, said Mr. Al-Ghozi remained in regular contact with Mr. Abu Bakar and another school official named Farid Ma'ruf. "The communication was by telephone and letters. I don't know what they talked about," he said.

By contrast, Mr. Al-Ghozi cut his family ties to a minimum, refusing to disclose his address to family members after he left Indonesia. "The last time we saw him was when he asked permission to study overseas in Pakistan," said his father, who is a member of the state assembly in East Java province from the Muslim-oriented Star and Crescent Party. "He occasionally called us just to say he was all right and ask about us, but he always refused to give his phone number or an address where we could contact him."

Officials close to the investigation of Mr. Al-Ghozi said he has been cooperative with the Philippine police. They said he has confirmed that he studied at Mr. Abu Bakar's school and that he later went to Pakistan. A lawyer for Mr. Al-Ghozi in Manila couldn't be reached to comment.

Arms Cache

Philippine police said Mr. Al-Ghozi first came to the Philippines in 1996 and spent a year at the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front's main base on the southern island of Mindanao. The MILF is an armed Islamic movement that is contesting the Philippine government for control of Mindanano.

Philippine officials have said that Mr. Al-Ghozi made regular trips between the Philippines and Singapore in recent months in an alleged attempt to transfer explosives. They have cited, in particular, a trip he made in October as part of a plan to attack the U.S. Embassy in Singapore. Officials said Mr. Al-Ghozi recently led them to an arms cache in a house in the Mindanao city of General Santos.

Philippine police are investigating whether Mr. Al-Ghozi and Jemaah Islamiyah played a role in separate strings of bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines in recent years, in particular, a 2000 assassination attempt in Jakarta on the Philippine ambassador to Indonesia.

--Rin Hindryati and Jay Solomon contributed to this article.