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Terror Threat Remains High, Indonesia Warns

Police chief says suspects in deadly Bali nightclub attack and others who learned to make bombs in Afghan camps are still on the loose.

May 14, 2003|Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writer

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Bali Police Chief I Made Mangku Pastika, former head of the Bali bombing investigation, said Tuesday that as many as 30 terrorists who learned how to make bombs in Afghan training camps remain on the loose in Indonesia.

The terrorists include at least three wanted for helping to make the bombs that killed 202 people in Bali in October, he said, adding that they may be few in number but still pose a continuing threat to the country.

"I say maybe 10, maybe 20, maybe 30," Pastika said in an interview. "Maybe they will do something they can do with a small number, like another bomb. That's why we have to be very, very careful."

Based on intelligence provided by Australia, the police chief said, Indonesian authorities thwarted an attack planned in March for the East Java city of Surabaya. Police have yet to determine the target or arrest any suspects, he said, but the suspected plotters were overheard referring to their plan as an amaliyah, an Arabic term for "an action in the name of God." Suspects who have been arrested in the Bali nightclub bombings termed that attack an amaliyah too, Pastika said.

The police chief's comments came the day after court convened in the trial of Amrozi bin H. Nurhasyim, the first accused perpetrator of the Bali attack to go on trial. Amrozi allegedly bought the minivan and chemicals used to make the car bomb that killed most of the victims.

The organizers of the Bali attack were allegedly associated with the Jemaah Islamiah regional terrorist network, believed responsible for dozens of bombings in Southeast Asia. Its members view the United States as their enemy and want to create an Islamic state in the region.

Pastika said investigators are still attempting to prove that Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, had a role in the bombing. Police have no physical evidence, Pastika said, and making the case will depend on obtaining the testimony of one or more of the plotters.

"We believe there is a link, but we haven't proved it yet," Pastika said. "He's the inspiration."

Bashir is on trial in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, on treason charges. Prosecutors say he helped plan a series of church bombings on Christmas Eve 2000 that killed 19 people across the country.

Pastika said the Bali bombers learned their craft at training camps in Afghanistan believed to have been run by Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, or in similar camps run by extremists in the southern Philippines.

Of the bomb-makers who are still free, the most dangerous is a former university lecturer from Malaysia known as Dr. Azahari, Pastika said. Another, who allegedly helped assemble the Bali bombs and poses a serious threat, is an Indonesian who goes by the name Dulmatin, Pastika said.

The police chief said he believes both men are in Indonesia. He said the terrorist leader known as Hambali, who allegedly initiated the Bali bomb plot, is believed to be in Pakistan.

Pastika said the manhunt underway for the bombers has forced the fugitives to split up, thereby helping to prevent more bombings. The suspects no longer talk with one another by cell phone because they fear police could track them that way, he said, but Pastika suspects that they still communicate by e-mail.

Amrozi and two other Bali bomb suspects were quoted by the Times of London this week as saying that they had no remorse for the bombing and that they expected to be executed by firing squad.

Amrozi's brother Ali Imron, one of the alleged conspirators, told the newspaper that they attacked the Sari Club -- the nightclub where most of the victims died -- because it was an immoral place.

"In short, it was a place of sin, so it deserved to be demolished," the Sunday article quoted him as saying.

The men said their goal was to kill Americans, but they apparently could not tell Americans from Australians. The dead included 89 Australians and seven Americans.

"Australians, Americans, whatever -- they are all white people," Ali Imron told the newspaper.

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