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Bali Bombers' Work Seen in Hotel Blast

Indonesian police say two explosives experts may have assembled the car bomb used last week.

August 12, 2003|Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Two skilled bomb makers who allegedly assembled the deadly Bali car bombs last year are likely suspects in the Marriott hotel blast in Jakarta last week that killed 11 people, police said Monday.

Azahari bin Husin, a Malaysian university lecturer, and Dulmatin, an Indonesian electronics expert, have evaded a manhunt for the last nine months. While on the run, police believe, the pair stayed for a time in the Sumatra home of Asmar Latin Sani, the Muslim militant who drove the car bomb to the JW Marriott on Aug. 5 and died in the explosion.

The alleged involvement of Azahari and Dulmatin is another sign that the Marriott bombing was probably the latest in a series of attacks carried out over the last four years by Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian extremist group affiliated with the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Police have arrested dozens of suspects connected to Jemaah Islamiah since the pair of nightclub bombings in Bali, which killed 202 people Oct. 12, but they warn that the group might strike again soon in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.

Asked whether Azahari and Dulmatin were involved in the Marriott attack, Indonesian Police Chief of Detectives Erwin Mappaseng told reporters: "We are going in that direction, but we are still investigating. After we arrest them, we can tell you everything."

Earlier in the day, Deputy Jakarta Police Chief Nanan Sukarna said Sani, the car bomber, had been wanted by police for months. He did not specify whether Sani was wanted for the Bali bombings or another offense.

After the Marriott blast, Sani was identified by two jailed suspects in the Bali bombings, Sardono Siliwangi and Mohammed Rais. They identified him from photos of his head, which was blown off in the blast. DNA tests showed that other remains found near the bomb site were those of Sani, police said.

Siliwangi and Rais were arrested in June on the island of Sumatra with Jhoni Endrawan, also known as Idris, who allegedly helped organize the Bali attack.

Jemaah Islamiah, which allegedly has operated in at least eight countries from Cambodia to Australia, seeks to establish an Islamic state by creating chaos and bringing down established governments.

In addition to the Bali nightclub and Jakarta hotel attacks, the group is accused of bombing churches, the Philippine ambassador's Jakarta residence, a Jakarta shopping mall, Indonesia's national mosque and a transit station and other civilian targets in Manila.

Mappaseng said a 9-volt battery believed to have been used in detonating the Marriott bomb was of the same brand as batteries used in Indonesian church bombings on Christmas Eve 2000 that killed 19 people. Police said the batteries are not commonly seen in Indonesia, which suggests they were brought from outside the country and distributed with the explosives and detonators used in the attacks.

Participants in the church bombings have told police they were organized by Jemaah Islamiah operations chief Hambali, a top Al Qaeda operative, who is still at large.

Authorities believe that Hambali was also behind the Bali bombings and that he transferred money from Al Qaeda to help finance the attack.

Hambali allegedly organized the church bombings in 2000 with the help of Imam Samudra, a computer expert. Samudra was arrested after the Bali bombings and is accused of playing a major role in that plot.

On trial in Bali, Samudra testified Monday that he was not involved in the bombings, but he said he did not fear execution if convicted.

"I am not afraid of being sentenced to death, because what I have done so far has put me on the road to Allah, and is in line with the teachings of Islam," Samudra said. "Muslims have been made scapegoats for American terrorism around the world."

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