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Police Link Bali Bombers to al-Qaida


Indonesian police have made their first link between last month's Bali bomb attack and the al-Qaida terrorist network. They say the top suspect in the bombing knows the man thought to be al-Qaida's top operative in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia's National Police chief says Imam Samudra first denied knowing Riduan Isamuddin, who also goes by the name Hambali. But when police showed him their evidence, Mr. Samudra admitted he did know him. Police say the two men were neighbors in Malaysia. But they provided no other details.

Mr. Samudra was arrested last week. Police say he confessed to being involved in the planning to the attack and say he was the mastermind.

Mr. Isamuddin is considered the operational head of the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah and the senior member of the al-Qaida terror network in Southeast Asia. Wednesday's comments mark the first time police have linked the Bali blasts to al-Qaida. Mr. Isamuddin remains at large.

The Indonesian national is linked to the wave of church bombings across the country on Christmas Eve two years ago, and to bombings in the Philippine capital Manila. Singaporean authorities say Mr. Isamuddin was involved in several other plots, including a thwarted plan to attack U.S. navy ships and embassies in the city-state.

The United Nations, the United States and the European Union have all designated JI an international terrorist organization. Singapore and Malaysia have arrested dozens of people they say are linked to JI and to various terror plots.

More than 190 people died in the October 12 bombing in Bali, many of them foreign tourists. Mr. Samudra is one of two suspects linked directly to the bombing to be arrested so far.

In recent days Indonesian authorities have made few if any public statements about another terrorist suspect, Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir. Singapore and Malaysia charge that Mr. Bashir is JI's spiritual chief, and he is linked to Mr. Isamuddin.

Mr. Bashir is in detention on charges he was linked to the Christmas Eve bombings. But authorities have yet to link him to the Bali bombing, or to formally accuse of him of working for JI. Mr. Bashir denies all charges of terrorism.

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