/ 27 August 2009

Indonesian terror network ‘larger than thought’

The terror network blamed for the Jakarta hotel bombings is ”larger and more sophisticated” than thought, a think tank said on Thursday as police quizzed suspects over possible al-Qaeda links.

Analysts at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said the group led by Malaysian Islamist Noordin Mohammed Top was finding it ”disturbingly easy” to recruit members to carry out fresh attacks.

”More than a month after the 17 July 2009 hotel bombings in Jakarta, Noordin Mohammed Top remains at large, but his network is proving to be larger and more sophisticated than previously thought,” the ICG said in a report.

”Noordin may still be the commander, but he has some exceedingly well-connected lieutenants who made their debut in the hotel bombings.”

The twin suicide blasts at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels killed nine people including two bombers and six foreigners. They marked the bloody end of a four-year hiatus in such attacks in the mainly Muslim country.

Noordin (41) is the most wanted extremist in Indonesia and calls his group ”al-Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago”.

He allegedly received al-Qaeda backing for an attack on the Marriott in 2003 which killed 12 people, but no such link has been confirmed this time around.

Police say they have killed three cell members and hold five others in custody, including an Indonesian Islamist journalist known as the ”Prince of Jihad”, who is accused of helping arrange funds for the attacks.

Counter-terror squad officers arrested the journalist, Mohammad Jibril Abdurahman, near Jakarta late on Tuesday and also raided the office of his extremist website, Arrahmah.com.

Police believe the Pakistan-educated suspect was an accomplice of Saudi national Al Khalil Ali, who was arrested in Indonesia earlier this month on suspicion of smuggling money from abroad to pay for the July 17 operation.

The source of the funds is not known, but police have said they are investigating whether the money came from al-Qaeda brokers in the Middle East, among other possible donors.

ICG analyst Sidney Jones said Mohammad Jibril was not a known member of al-Qaeda, but had reportedly had contacts with Osama bin Laden’s group in the past. — AFP