Indonesia says it arrests organizer of Bali bombings

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Police have arrested the most-wanted fugitive in last year's Bali nightclub bombings as he plotted more terror attacks with other al-Qaida-linked militants, officials said Monday.

The announcement came as prosecutors recommended a death sentence in the trial of the militant known as the "smiling bomber" -- the first suspect to face trial for the Oct. 12 attacks on the resort island, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

The arrest of the latest suspect, known as Idris, appeared to be a major victory for Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, in its fight against Islamic militancy.

Washington has criticized Indonesia for not acting to stamp out terrorism and on Friday renewed its travel warning for the country, saying militants may be planning new attacks on U.S. targets.

"He has confessed to his entire role in the bombing," Bali police chief Maj. Gen. I Made Mangku Pastika told The Associated Press.

"This is a very important arrest."

Pastika said the suspect, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, was part of a gang that robbed a bank in the city of Medan, on Sumatra island, last month to raise money for terrorist operations.

Idris was arrested in Medan on June 12 with 10 other alleged gang members, all been accused of belonging to the regional Islamic militant group, Jemaah Islamiyah.

Police announced the capture of the other suspects last week but did not disclose Idris's arrest, fearing it would inspire militants to go into hiding.

Jemaah Islamiyah, which reportedly wants to establish an Islamic state across Muslim parts of Southeast Asia, has been linked to al-Qaida and is blamed for the Bali bombings.

Many of the 35 people arrested in connection with the attacks have allegedly admitted to being Jemaah Islamiyah members -- including one who prosecutors say fought alongside Osama bin Laden.

Prosecutors have accused Idris of serving as the deputy to Imam Samudra, the alleged mastermind of the Bali bombings. Samudra is one of three bombing suspects already on trial.

Idris -- who uses the aliases Joni Hendrawan and Gembrot -- allegedly attended many planning meetings for the Bali attack and handled most of the group's logistics.

He is also accused of providing Bali suspect Amrozi bin Nurhasyim with money for bomb-making materials and was with him when he bought the minivan used in one of the resort island bombings.

The 35-year-old Idris is believed to have studied in an Islamic school in Malaysia headed by Ali Ghufron -- one of three suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members who is also on trial for the Bali attack.

Three other Bali bombing suspects remain at large.

Police are also hunting for former Jemaah Islamiyah operations chief, Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali. He is believed to be bin Laden's point man in Southeast Asia, but has not been directly implicated in the Bali plot.

Prosecutors on Monday called on judges to sentence Amrozi to death for his alleged role in the bombings, the bloodiest terror attacks since the Sept. 11.

"We conclude that the defendant is responsible for terrorist acts that have caused anxiety, damage and the loss of lives," Prosecutor Urip Trigunawan told the Denpasar District Court.

Amrozi listened impassively and stroked his beard as he listened to the sentence recommendation.

The father of an Australian killed in the bombings cried out, "Amrozi, you die!" immediately after the prosecutor spoke.

Amrozi would face a firing squad if Indonesia carries out the sentence. In earlier testimony, he admitted his role in the attack and told his lawyers he was ready for punishment.

Soon after his arrest in November, Amrozi was dubbed the "smiling bomber" after he outraged survivors and relatives of victims by giggling before TV crews.

He and other key suspects are alleged to have taken part in the attack to avenge the suffering of Muslims at the hands of the United States and its allies.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: