Laman KM2: 6691 KM2 Index File Size: 5.9 Kb

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] &en=4933ff6ba75440c7&ei=5040

New York Times

January 31, 2002


Suspect Calls Malaysia a Staging Area for Terror Attacks


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 officials said.

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 Mr. Sufaat.

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 Lumpur.

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 attacks.

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."