NYT: Suspect Calls Malaysia a Staging Area for Terror Attacks
By P. Shenon and D. Johnston
31/1/2002 3:34 pm Thu
[Kita siarkan rencana ini sebagai satu rekod. Akhbar New York Times
adalah di antara akhbar yang terbesar di Amerika..... sekaligus memberi
satu keaiban yang agak besar juga kepada seorang diktator yang bermulut
besar di Malaysia....- Editor]
New York Times
January 31, 2002
Suspect Calls Malaysia a Staging Area for Terror Attacks
By PHILIP SHENON and DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 - An operative of Al Qaeda arrested in
Malaysia has begun cooperating with investigators and provided
new evidence to show that the Southeast Asian nation was a major
staging area for the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States,
Bush administration officials said today.
The operative, a former Malaysian Army captain, has
acknowledged meeting in Malaysia with at least two of the Sept. 11
hijackers, as well as with Zacarias Moussaoui, a 33- year-old
French citizen who is now in a Virginia jail cell and is the only
person charged so far with involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, the
They said the United States was negotiating with the Malaysian
government in hopes that the retired Malaysian soldier, Yazid
Sufaat, 37, could be extradited here to face charges.
The negotiations have been difficult, officials said, because of
repeated public statements by the Malaysian government insisting
that the predominantly Muslim nation could not have been a staging
ground for the Sept. 11 attacks.
American and Malaysian officials say they believe that Mr. Sufaat
was a crucial organizer of a gang of Muslim extremists known as the
Malaysian Militant Group, or Jemaah Islamiah, that is part of Osama
bin Laden's terrorist network, Al Qaeda. Mr. Sufaat was one of 23
people believed to be extremists detained by the Malaysia police in
the last two months.
Officials said Mr. Sufaat appeared to have operated as a paymaster
for Mr. Moussaoui, who was arrested in the United States last
August after he raised suspicions among his instructors at a
Minneapolis flight school and to have provided him with bogus
business credentials from a Malaysian technology company.
Officials said they had found evidence that Mr. Sufaat provided Mr.
Moussaoui with at least $35,000 in meetings near Kuala Lumpur,
the Malaysian capital, in September and October of 2000. American
investigators say Mr. Moussaoui deposited about $32,000 a few
months later in a bank account in Norman, Okla., where he first
attended flight school in the United States.
Lawyers for Mr. Moussaoui, who is of Moroccan descent and who
has been linked by French intelligence agencies to Al Qaeda,
have entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf on charges that he
conspired in the Sept. 11 attacks. One of the defense lawyers,
Edward B. MacMahon, had no comment tonight when asked about
American officials said the evidence showed that Mr. Sufaat had
met in January 2000 with two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Khalid
al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi, at his condominium outside Kuala
Mr. Midhar and Mr. Alhazmi subsequently traveled to the United
States for flight training, and they were among the suicidal hijackers
who commandeered the American Airlines jet that crashed into the
Pentagon on Sept. 11.
Officials had previously acknowledged that Mr. Midhar and Mr.
Alhazmi were under surveillance on their trip to Malaysia, and that
as a result of their meetings in Kuala Lumpur with Al Qaeda
operatives, they were placed on an immigration watchlist in the
United States. By the time their names were added to the list,
however, the two men had already entered the United States.
Investigators say that Muslim extremists in Malaysia appear to have
organized "sleeper cells" of Islamic militants throughout Southeast
Asia, and that they may have given direction to a network based in
neighboring Singapore, which had planned to blow up the
embassies there of the United States, Israel, Australia and Britain.
The plot was apparently foiled when 13 terror suspects were
arrested in the tiny, tightly policed city- state in recent weeks.
During questioning, officials there said, the suspects described a
well-organized terror network stretching across several nations in
Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, which has a large Muslim
population, and Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.
Investigators say they believe they have established a link between
Mr. Sufaat and Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, a 30-year-old Indonesian
living in the Philippines who is suspected of organizing the embassy
attacks in Singapore.
Mr. Ghozi was arrested this month in the Philippines, where the
authorities said they seized a cache of rifles, explosives and
bomb-making equipment believed to have been part of the plot.
Officials said the evidence suggested that Mr. Ghozi had separately
ordered Mr. Sufaat to purchase tons of explosives for use in the
The arrest in Malaysian of Mr. Sufaat and the others accused of
being Islamic extremists had created a problem for the government
of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has rejected the
suggestion that his country could have been used as a staging area
for the Sept. 11 attacks.
"As far as we know, there is no Malaysian connection in the attacks
in the U.S.," Mr. Mohamad said earlier this week.
Asked specifically about the possible role of Mr. Sufaat in the terrorist strikes, the prime minister replied, "Let's see the evidence - it's very easy to say." He continued: "Did he plan everything? I doubt it. It is too sophisticated an operation."