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Bali Bombing Suspect Transferred to Jakarta for Questioning - 2002-11-25

Indonesian authorities have transferred their top suspect in the Bali bomb investigation to the capital Jakarta for questioning. Police brought Imam Samudra to the Indonesian capital in a convoy of armored cars early Monday.

In addition to confessing his role in the Bali bombing, police say Mr. Samudra confessed that he took part in the Christmas Eve bombings of 2000, when more than a dozen blasts rocked churches across Indonesia. Police say he admitted to taking part in other bombings in the country.

Earlier this month police named Mr. Samudra the mastermind behind the October 12 Bali bomb attack. At least 190 people died in the explosions. Suspicion for the Bali blast has fallen on the regional militant group, Jemaah Islamiyah. JI wants to create an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.

But Indonesian officials have made conflicting statements as to whether JI was involved in the Bali bombing, and whether it even operates in Indonesia. Vice President Hamzah Haz said the arrest of Mr. Samudra means the investigators can determine whether he has links to Jemaah Islamiyah, which he describes as a Malaysian group.

Police arrested Mr. Samudra last Thursday, as he was about to leave West Java for the island of Sumatra. He is the second important suspect arrested so far in the October 12 attack. Earlier this year, officials in Singapore and Malaysia arrested several people they believe are linked to JI for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks. The United States, the United Nations and the European Union have all designated JI an international terrorist organization. The move obligates U.N. members to work together to stop the group's operations.

Washington says J.I. is linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

In its latest issue, the U.S. weekly news magazine Time reports that Indonesian police are pursuing three "top tier" suspects in the Bali investigation, one of whom may be an al-Qaida operative. Citing intelligence experts, the magazine says a Yemeni national named Syafullah is being pursued. He may be linked to a terrorist attack on a U.S. military base in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that killed 19 people. The second is a Malaysian named Zubair who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and the third is an Indonesian militant who worked at what the magazine describes as an al-Qaida-linked training camp on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. So far, Indonesian officials have said publicly that they think all their suspects in the investigation are Indonesian nationals.