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Indonesian Investigators Searching for Link Between Suspect, Terrorist Network - 2002-11-16

Indonesia's chief investigator into the deadly Bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali says it is too soon to tell whether the top suspect in the case is linked to a regional or international terrorist network. General Made Pastika spoke with reporters briefly as the Balinese held a series of religious ceremonies to remember those who died in the October 12 blast. Chief investigator Police General Made Pastika says the inquiry into the bombing is moving along but it is going to take time. "People always asking me, if there is a connection between the Bali bombing and the al-Qaida, with the JI, Jemaah Islamiyah, with Abu Bakar Bashir, with other big people or big picture. But I start and I build the investigation from the crime scene, from the evidence we gather, from the witnesses that we found near the crime-scene, or around the crime-scene." At least 180 people died and hundreds more were injured when a van filled with 50 kilograms of explosives was detonated on a street lined with restaurants and bars in Bali's Kuta tourist district.

Suspicion, especially by Western governments and Indonesia's neighbors, immediately fell on the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, which those governments say is linked to al-Qaida. The group, which is also now on the U.S. governments terrorist list, was formed to establish a pan-Islamic state across Southeast Asia. JI's alleged leader is an Indonesian Muslim cleric named Abu Bakar Bashir.

But so far General Pastika says, police have not found a link between the bombing and a larger terrorist network. "Because if I say that there is a connection between this Bali bombing and al-Qaida - then the next question is what is the evidence? I cannot tell you the evidence up to now, we are still working on it," he said.

Investigators have arrested a 30-year-old Indonesian mechanic named Amrozi, who they say has confessed to owning the van that was used in the bombing.

Earlier this week, Australian politicians and news media and politicians expressed outrage after seeing a televised interrogation of Mr. Amrozi. The suspect was seen smiling throughout what appeared to be a very friendly round of questioning. Police also removed his handcuffs, allowing Mr. Amrozi gave a lighthearted wave to journalists.

The interrogation sparked further anger when Mr. Amrozi apologized to his family for his arrest - but did not apologize to the families of the victims killed in the blast. One Australian called the scene "just horrific."

General Pastika defended the subordinate who carried out the interrogation, who he says was being sensitive to the Indonesian public's concerns for a high-profile suspect during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Amrozi now is fasting. He's a Muslim and he's fasting. So we have to also respect his beliefs in this time. This is a very sensitive thing in Indonesia. So if our Indonesian people see that Amrozi was not treated as a human being, then they will be also a very big reaction," he said. "We understand the feelings of the relatives and the victims in Australia. We also have also our victims in Indonesia."

General Pastika says that Mr. Amrozi has supplied the authorities with a great deal of useful information - and they are now looking for new suspects, including Mr. Amrozi's two brothers. But he said the suspect makes light of the fact that he is still withholding information. Question: "How much is Amrozi telling you?"
Pastika: "Full answers. But he said to me that if he knows 100, then he lets me know only 60, for the moment."

General Pastika admits that Mr. Amrozi's relaxed style with investigators has kept them entertained. "At the end of the conversation, you know what he said, make us laughing? 'Is it no matter if I a little bit lying to you?' he said. That's him!"

The general says the police are now hoping to arrest several more suspects, including Imam Samudra, Mukhlas and Dul Matin, who they say could be linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah group. Mukhlas has been identified as one of Mr. Amrozi's brothers.