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Muslim Extremist Group Jemaah Islamiyah Implicated in Bali Bombings - 2002-11-30


The investigation into last month's Bali terrorist bombing and the Muslim extremist organization suspected of masterminding the attack is pointing to a Southeast Asian group called Jemaah Islamiyah.

Keeping track of those whose names are linked to the Bali bombing last October is made difficult by the fact that many Indonesians use only one name and many of those under investigation use aliases as well.

At the center of the investigation is a militant Muslim organization called Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, operating in several Southeast Asian nations. JI is reportedly linked to the al-Qaida terror network and some members of the organization are suspected of being involved in the Bali bombing that killed at least 190 people on October 12. Those allegedly involved in that attack have strong links to an Indonesian Muslim cleric named Abu Bakar Bashir.

Mr. Bashir had lived for a number of years in Malaysia, where government and intelligence officials say he preached a militant brand of Islam. The Malaysian, Singaporean and American governments say Mr. Bashir is the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, and that JI has strong ties to al-Qaida. Mr. Bashir denies any links to terrorism, but he is an outspoken admirer of the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden.

Two individuals are now in custody, and investigators say both have confessed their roles in the Bali bombing. One is Imam Samudra, a computer expert who reportedly masterminded the attack and made the bombs that were used. The other is Amrozi, a mechanic who delivered the explosives.

Mr. Samudra and Mr. Amrozi also lived in Malaysia, and studied there under Mr. Bashir. So did a man named Riduan Isamuddin, better known by his alias, Hambali. Hambali has been identified as JI's operational leader, but Indonesian investigators say he is now lying low, and his leading role has been taken over by another cleric named Mukhlas. Mr. Mukhlas is a brother of Mr. Amrozi, the man already under arrest in Bali.

Malaysian and Singaporean authorities have arrested dozens of people they say were planning terrorist attacks on behalf of Jemaah Islamiyah. They say JI's aim is to establish a Muslim state in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Southern Philippines.

Until the Bali attack, the Indonesian government resisted suggestions that terrorist Islamic groups had any presence in Indonesia. Now, officials are admitting they were wrong. They have yet to directly implicate Mr. Bashir in the Bali bombing - but as Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil said Friday if three of Mr. Bashir's associates: Hambali, Amrozi and Samudra, were all involved, Mr. Bashir must have known what was going on.

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