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'Mukhlas' Receives Death Sentence for Involvement in Bali Bombings


A court on the Indonesian island of Bali has sentenced a 43-year-old Islamic religious teacher to death for planning a car bomb attack that killed more than 202 people a year ago. Ali Ghufron is believed to be a senior member of the terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah.

The court found Ali Ghufron, who is also known as Mukhlas, guilty of planning and inciting the attacks on two bars popular with tourists. Two-hundred-and-two people, most of them young western tourists, died in the blasts and the inferno that followed.

The court Thursday found that Ali Ghufron was the man who controlled the plot, orchestrated the planning meetings and delegated jobs to different members of the gang who carried it out.

As the sentence was read out, he reacted with little fear, punching the air and shouting "God is greatest". Ali Ghufron is alleged to be a senior member of the South East Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI.

The police say he took over as a divisional commander within the group when the police hunt became too hot for his predecessor, Hambali. Hambali, another Indonesian and a man whom President Bush described as one of the world's most lethal terrorists was arrested in August and is now in U.S. custody.

JI has been implicated in a number of bomb attacks in South East Asia, including blasts in The Philippines that killed over 20 people, and an explosion outside the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta earlier this year in which 12 people died.

Ali Ghufron is the eldest of three brothers who were involved in the attacks. One of his younger brothers, Amrozi, has also been sentenced to death. The other brother, Ali Imron, was sentenced to life in prison after he repeatedly expressed his remorse for his role in the attacks.

Both Ali Ghufron and Amrozi face death by firing squad. Amrozi has already lodged an appeal, and Ali Ghufron said Thursday that he would also challenge his conviction.

The Indonesian police have arrested 36 men in connection with the Bali bombs, and hundreds have been detained across Asia on suspicion of involvement in terrorism over the past two years.

But analysts warn that despite the blows that these arrests have dealt to JI, the organization is still capable of carrying out major operations in the region.

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