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Suspected Bali Bombing Mastermind Reportedly Confesses - 2002-11-22


Indonesian police say the man suspected of masterminding the Bali bombing has confessed to planning that attack and several other bombings around the country.

After a day of conflicting statements about what the prisoner did or did not say, National Police Chief Dai Bachtiar had the final word: Imam Samudra, who was arrested on Thursday, has confessed to participating in the planning of the October 12 bombing in Bali, and several other bombings across Indonesia. Investigators had already called Mr. Samudra the mastermind behind the Bali bombing earlier this month. They describe the 35-year-old from Java as a computer expert who learned how to make bombs during several visits to Afghanistan.

At least 190 people died when a van packed with 50 kilograms of explosives was detonated on a street lined with restaurants and bars in Bali's busiest tourist district. Most of the dead were foreign tourists.

At least 19 Indonesians died on Christmas Eve 2000, when bomb blasts rocked several Christian churches across the country. Police say Mr. Samudra confessed to those bombings, plus another in a shopping mall in the capital city, Jakarta.

Like many young Indonesian men, Mr. Samudra left Indonesia at one point to search for work in neighboring Malaysia.

The bombing investigators have offered a similar profile of another man arrested in the Bali bombing, a car mechanic named Amrozi, who they say confessed to owning the car that carried the explosives. Mr. Amrozi also went to Malaysia in search of work.

National Police chief General Dai Bachtiar says Mr. Samudra and Mr. Amrozi met when Mr. Samudra returned to Indonesia from a trip to Malaysia earlier this year.

General Bachtiar says Mr. Amrozi was not too well known in Indonesia - but he was known in Malaysia. He says the two men started to plan the Bali bombing after Mr. Samudra's return.

Police say in Malaysia both men studied under Abu Bakar Bashir, a militant Muslim cleric also from Indonesia.

The governments of Malaysia, Singapore and the United States charge that Mr. Bashir is the head of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a militant group that wants to create an Islamic state across Southeast Asia. Washington charges that JI, as the group is known, is linked to the al-Qaida terror network.

Mr. Bashir is in police detention in Jakarta on suspicion of involvement in the Christmas Eve bombings. So far, the Indonesians have not linked him or JI to the Bali bombing.

Other Indonesian officials have made conflicting statements as to whether JI was involved in that attack, and whether it even operates in Indonesia.

Vice President Hamzah Haz says the arrest of Mr. Samudra means the investigators will be able to determine whether he has links to Jemaah Islamiyah, which the vice president describes as a Malaysian group.

Police say they believe 8 to 10 people were involved in the Bali bombing; all of whom are believed to be Indonesian nationals. They say they hope to make more arrests in the coming days.

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