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Top Islamic Militant Arrested in Indonesia - 2002-12-04

Indonesian police say they have arrested a top operative from the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group. Officials say he is one of several people arrested recently on suspicion of being involved in the October 12 bomb attack on Indonesia's Bali Island. Police have given conflicting information about the arrest of Ali Ghufron - known as Mukhlas - who is believed to be a key operative in the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group. The top detective for the National Police, General Erwin Mappaseng, says Mukhlas was arrested late Tuesday in the central Java town of Klaten. Seven other people, one of whom is thought to be his wife, also were arrested. A senior investigator in the Bali case, General Edward Aritonang, says five people were arrested in a pre-dawn raid in central Java. But he has given no details about the identities of the suspects and has not confirmed whether Mukhlas was among them. Indonesian intelligence officials say they suspect that Mukhlas has replaced Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, as top al-Qaida operative in Southeast Asia. Others say Mukhlas is the operational leader of Jemaah Islamiyah - a regional militant group. JI, as the group is known, wants to build an Islamic state across Southeast Asia. Washington says the group is linked to the al-Qaida terror network. The governments of Singapore and Malaysia both say they have foiled at least two other JI terrorist plots in Southeast Asia. Nearly 200 people died on October 12 when two bombs rocked a crowded Bali tourist district. Most of the dead were foreign tourists. Despite strong suspicions, police have not said definitively that the group carried out the Bali bombing. Police began pursuing Mukhlas after their first arrest in the Bali case last month, his younger brother, Amrozi. Police say Amrozi confessed to buying the car and some of the explosives used in the bombing. A third suspect, Imam Samudra, has been arrested and confessed to being the mastermind behind the bombing.