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Newly Arrested Suspect Linked to Bali Bombing - 2002-12-05


Indonesian police have linked a terrorist suspect to the Bali bombing. Authorities say Ali Ghufron, also known as Mukhlas, is also thought to be the operational head of the militant Jemaah Islamiyah group.

Police say Ali Ghufron, known as Mukhlas, took part in meetings to organize the October 12 bomb attack in Bali. Some of the meetings were held in the Central Java town of Solo, while others were held in East Java, in the home of Mr. Mukhlas's younger brother Amrozi. Mr. Amrozi was the first key suspect arrested in the investigation. Police say he confessed to owning the car that was filled with explosives and detonated on a crowded tourist street in Bali, killing nearly 200 people. Indonesian intelligence officers have said they think that Mr. Mukhlas may have taken over as the head of the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI. If that is so, Mr. Mukhlas replaced Riduan Isamuddin, who also goes by the name Hambali. Washington says JI is linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network. Some officials refer to Mr. Hambali as an al-Qaida chief. Some security analysts have cast doubt as to whether Mr. Mukhlas' arrest will have a strong affect on JI. That is because many terrorist organizations have no defined structure and members can act independently. The chief investigator in the Bali bombing, Police General Made Pastika echoed that theory when speaking to reporters about JI in the Indonesian capital on Thursday. General Pastika says the suspects are not with a formal organization with a structure like some registered group - it is a concept. The governments of Singapore and Malaysia say they have foiled at least two plots by JI to attack Western interests in Southeast Asia in the past year. Despite the direction their investigation has taken, police have yet to formally implicate JI in the Bali bombing.

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