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Indonesian Police Investigate Bashir Link to Bali Bombing - 2003-01-29

Indonesian police may be tightening the noose on an alleged militant leader suspected of involvement in last October's deadly bomb attack on the island of Bali. Authorities say they will investigate the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Bakar Bashir.

Police spokesman Lt. Colonel Zainuri Lubis says Mr. Bashir will be investigated and that he meets several criteria as a potential suspect. He also says several of the 30 suspects now in police custody have charged that Mr. Bashir knew about the bombing plot. More than 190 people, mostly foreign tourists, died when a pair of bombs was detonated on a crowded tourist street in Bali last October. Abu Bakar Bashir is the alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah - or JI - a militant group that wants to create an Islamic state across Southeast Asia. On Tuesday, Indonesia's National Police chief General Da'I Bachtiar said that JI was definitely behind the bombing, although the police have stopped short of filing formal charges. Mr. Bashir denies all involvement with the bombing and with JI. Indonesia police for the first time on Tuesday directly linked Mr. Bashir to the bomb plot. In the past, police and most government officials have been more circumspect about both Mr. Bashir and the question of whether JI operates on Indonesian soil. Mr. Bashir is currently in detention in the Indonesian capital Jakarta facing charges he was involved in another terrorist plot - a series of bombings across Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000. Prosecutors say they want him to face charges of treason for still another plot, this time to assassinate Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri.