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Indonesia announces an anti-terrorism coup

June 16, 2007|Paul Watson | Times Staff Writer

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Claiming an anti-terrorism double play, Indonesian police said Friday an operation that captured the military commander of Al Qaeda's affiliate here last week also netted the local group's overall leader in Southeast Asia.

Zarkasih, the head of Jemaah Islamiah, who goes by only one name, was arrested last Saturday in the city of Yogyakarta after the commander of the group's military wing, Abu Dujana, was picked up in a raid earlier the same day, the head of the police anti-terrorism unit told reporters.

Surya Dharma, who leads the elite Detachment 88 squad, warned that Jemaah Islamiah had gone through several changes to recover from the loss of previous commanders, and said the group was trying to do so again.

"The Jemaah Islamiah network still exists," Dharma said. "They are building their strength by recruiting and performing all kinds of training and collecting all kinds of guns, ammunition, and ready-to-use bombs."

The group's commanders in two regions in Indonesia's Central Java province have been captured, he said. But two others in charge of militants here in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, and in the city of Surabaya are still at large, Dharma added.

At Friday's news conference, police showed a videotape of Abu Dujana calmly confessing that he was the leader of Jemaah Islamiah's military wing, which he said is called Askariah.

Abu Dujana, 37, said his involvement in Jemaah Islamiah dated back to 1993, when he was the group's representative in Peshawar, Pakistan. He added that he was appointed military commander in 2005 by Zarkasih, whom he identified as the group's fifth emir, or overall leader, since 1995.

Police said Zarkasih became emir in 2004. In his taped confession, the almost white-haired Zarkasih, also known as Abu Irsyad, said he was 45 years old and that he'd been elevated to the group's top spot by a special commission as a temporary measure while it searched for someone to name "the real emir."

"Of course, it was very hard to achieve that," he said. "So the rest of my friends appointed me as emir. I did not know the function of emir at that time."

Police said that before his promotion, Zarkasih was head of the commission that selected the emir. Earlier, he served as regional military commander.

Jemaah Islamiah and its allies are also active in the southern Philippines, where troops backed by U.S. military advisors have had success this year in capturing leading terrorism suspects.

Two suspected Jemaah Islamiah bombers from Indonesia are believed to be hiding out with allied Abu Sayyaf militants on the Philippines' Jolo island. Dulmatin, also known as Amar bin Usman, and Umar Patek are wanted in connection with the 2002 nightclub bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali. The blasts killed 202 people, most of them Australian tourists.

The U.S. has offered a $10-million reward for the capture of Dulmatin, an electronics specialist with training in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. He fled to Mindanao, an island in the southern Philippines, soon after the August 2003 bombing of the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta, which killed 12 people.

Last month, Philippine troops took four of Dulmatin's children into custody on the island of Tawi Tawi. His wife and two other children were detained on Jolo last fall.

Militants continue to launch terrorist attacks in urban areas, even as troops continue to track them. At least nine passengers were killed in a commuter bus bombing Friday in the southern Philippines, officials said.

paul.watson@latimes.com

Special correspondent Al Jacinto in Zamboanga City, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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