Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Police arrest reports give picture of Indonesia's international terror links

Police arrest reports give picture of Indonesia's international terror links

Author: Chris Brummitt
Publication: Yahoo News
Date: May 31, 2008
URL: http://beta.ph.news.yahoo.com/ap/20080531/tap-as-gen-indonesia-terror-looking-abro-64ed358.html

After months on the run, two alleged leaders in a Southeast Asian militant group were holed up in a cheap Malaysian hotel, ready to fly to the Middle East to link up with other Islamic extremists, possibly in Iraq.

The pair had bribed Indonesian immigration officials to smooth their way out of the airport in Jakarta, where they started their journey. An Algerian gave them fake passports, airline tickets and militant contacts in Syria.

But they never made it farther than Kuala Lumpur. It is unclear what led police in the Malaysian capital to their room early this year, but _ befuddled by sleep _ they did not resist arrest.

The foiled flight of Abu Husna and Agus Purwantoro, who were sent back to Indonesia in late March, is just part of the story outlined in police investigation reports obtained by The Associated Press.

The documents detail how the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah has maintained the ability and desire to forge international links despite a crackdown that most experts believed left it severely weakened and isolated, with hundreds of its members behind bars.

The papers also provide rare details on the inner workings of the network, showing how Husna and Purwantoro were able to travel around Indonesia, using passwords to meet up with other wanted men at mosques, bus stations and cheap restaurants before fleeing the country.

Members and associates of Jemaah Islamiyah are blamed for a string of suicide bombings in Southeast Asia _ which have together killed more than 240 people, most of them Western tourists _ as well as a number of failed terror plots. The group had ties with al-Qaida and other foreign extremists before 2002, but most experts have thought the links had been broken since then.

"If there is a North African in Jakarta assisting the Jemaah Islamiyah network, then that is not a good thing," Sidney Jones, a leading authority on Southeast Asian militants, said about the Algerian sympathizer that the captured pair identified as "Jafar."

According to the police documents' accounts of their interrogations, Husna and Purwantoro allegedly met with Jafar in both Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

"It suggests an international network with a base in Jakarta and raises all sorts of questions about who else might be here," Jones said.

The investigation reports _ one each for Purwantoro and Husna _ were given to the AP by an official close to the police probe. The person agreed to turn over the reports only if not identified, fearing he could be fired for releasing the papers. Together, the documents run 48 pages.

Police say the men were arrested in Malaysia in January on their way to Syria to "link up with radical groups." Malaysian authorities have not revealed what led them to the men, but Indonesian police suggested the pair were caught in an operation targeting illegal migrants.

Indonesia's anti-terror squad, trained and financed by the U.S., had been hunting Husna, 48, since early last year. That was when arrested suspects said he attended a meeting with Jemaah Islamiyah elders to discuss the outcome of several attacks on the eastern island of Sulawesi between 2004 and 2006, including the beheadings of three Christian schoolgirls.

According to the police reports, Husna admits to being a senior member of Jemaah Islamiyah and attending the meeting, meaning police may be able to charge him with conspiracy to commit terrorism or related offenses.

Jones and other experts had speculated Husna was an interim leader of the extremist network, but the reports show him taking orders from other militants, suggesting there are higher-ranking members of the group still on the run.

Most officials assume the group has just a handful of active members left at large.

Purwantoro, a 38-year-old doctor, is alleged by police to have led Jemaah Islamiyah operations on Sulawesi. The reports say he admits organizing militant training camps on the island and helping perpetrators of bombings, shootings and other attacks _ including the beheadings of the schoolgirls _ flee.

Both men admit traveling in 1999 to the southern Philippines, where they learned how to make bombs at training camps run by Jemaah Islamiyah, the reports say. Muslim insurgents have been active in that part of the Philippines for years.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has been praised for its successful campaign against terrorism. The last major attack was in 2005, when suicide bombers targeted three restaurants on the resort island of Bali, killing 20 people.

But the apparent ease with which Husna and Purwantoro were able to leave the country highlights major weaknesses in its anti-terror defenses at a time when governments across Southeast Asia are trying to tighten their borders.

Both men said they used a middleman, known as a "calo," to channel money to officials at immigration offices in Jakarta to obtain passports with little scrutiny. They did not have to provide the full range of supporting documents, and those they did submit were fake, according to the reports.

They also employed a calo at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport so they could be whisked through passport control, the reports say.

"We went toward the immigration checkpoint, but before we arrived there, the calo directed us to an individual who would accompany us through the checkpoint ... so we could go through to the departure hall with no problems," Purwantoro told investigators. He did not elaborate.

Calos are common in Indonesian government departments that provide public services for a fee. At airports, some travelers employ them to ensure they do not have to stand in lines, or to pay immigration officials to ignore penalties for overstaying visas or other violations.

Immigration department spokesman Dahlan Pasaribu said he was unable to comment on specific cases, but insisted corruption at passport offices and border points was being eradicated.

"Short cuts are no longer allowed. It is an order from the top," he said.

Once in Malaysia, Husna and Purwantoro met again with Jafar and another Jemaah Islamiyah operative, this time at a KFC restaurant. The pair received new fake passports, airline tickets to Syria and the cell phone number of a contact there, the reports say.

Police have revealed no details about the men's plans in the Middle East or the identity of Jafar. Jones, the analyst, said the Algerian may be a member of al-Qaida, but stressed it was too early to know.

Syria's location has led to speculation by former militants and analysts that the two men may have been heading to Iraq. U.S. officials have long charged that Syrian authorities allow their country to be used as a staging ground by militants who sneak into Iraq to join insurgents. Syria denies that.

Nasir Abbas, a former Jemaah Islamiyah commander in Sulawesi who knew Purwantoro well, said he thought it likely the men were traveling to Iraq because they believed Indonesia was no longer a suitable venue for jihad, or holy war.

"They see Iraq as a more clear-cut case for jihad than Indonesia," said Abbas, who now works closely with police. "Even if they get arrested on the way, they believe that every step they take to that goal gets them reward in heaven."

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements