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Indonesia: A haven for al Qaeda?

Al-Ghozi: Known as 'Mike the bomb-maker'
Al-Ghozi: Known as 'Mike the bomb-maker'  


By Maria Ressa
CNN Jakarta Bureau Chief

(CNN) -- A surveillance videotape found in what the U.S. military calls an al Qaeda safehouse in Afghanistan shows, what authorities say, the reach of a Singapore terrorist cell.

The group is called Jemaah Islamiya, or JI, and Singapore officials arrested key members last December at about the same time U.S. officials released the videotape.

The group's plans: to bomb the US Embassy and US commercial and military targets in Singapore.

Those plots have largely been foiled after the December arrest of 13 JI members in Singapore, but this is only one cell of a much larger terrorist network.

"We know the JI has ties to al Qaeda," says FBI Director Robert Mueller. "We know the JI has ties in other countries besides Singapore, including Malaysia and Indonesia."

Singapore officials say the JI members in Singapore report to a leadership base in Malaysia, which has arrested nearly 50 suspected terrorists since last year.

'Mike the bomb-maker'

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CNN's Maria Ressa reports on a terrorist plot uncovered in the Phillipines in 1995 that was similar to the September 11 attacks.

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The Philippines -- on a tip from Singapore -- arrested Indonesia Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi last January. He is known to the JI Singapore cell as 'Mike the bomb-maker.'

Just last week, Philippine police arrested three more Indonesians at the international airport in Manila.

Police say the three men were carrying C4 explosives and detonating cords.

"What is most disturbing," says Philippine Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, "Is that one of them -- so far according to the tactical interrogation -- have been confirmed to have links with the JI."

Investigators here say another of the men arrested was fourth in command of the Indonesian Mujahadeen Council. That group's head, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, is also the spiritual leader of JI, according to authorities in Singapore and Malaysia.

Ba'asyir has been questioned by Indonesian police, but he continues to operate freely.

In fact, of the countries named with JI cells, only Indonesia has failed to arrest any suspected terrorists.

Singapore has put public pressure on Indonesia to do more, but others in the region say it may be more effective to work together through back-channels.

"Different countries have different peculiar situations, realities, political realities, demographic realities that constrain their ability to respond to the terrorist threat," says Reyes. "They have to calibrate their response, otherwise, the cure might be worse than the disease."

Al Qaeda presence

USA Today says Bush administration officials have evidence al Qaeda members have fled from Afghanistan to Indonesia.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir. Authorities say he is the spiritual leader of JI
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir. Authorities say he is the spiritual leader of JI  

The report said the White House is pressing to bring U.S. troops into the country, something analysts expect President Megawati Sukarnoputri to resist on the grounds an American presence could fuel the anger of Muslim extremists.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population and is just emerging from years of political, social and economic turmoil.

What officials in the Philippines say they fear is that pressure for a more aggressive counter-terrorist policy could destabilize Indonesia again and create more problems for the region.

Still, there are real concerns for its neighboring countries.

As part of the investigation in JI's cells, authorities have discovered there are 4 tons of explosives missing in Malaysia and 4.6 tons missing in the Philippines.

"When you have so many tons of explosives running around and you don't know where they are -- that definitely will be a source of concern," says Reyes.

"We are concerned. We are taking the appropriate measures, but we are not panicking."



 
 
 
 






RELATED STORY:
• Tape shows Singapore attack plans
January 13, 2002

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• USA Today

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