Bali bomb 'mastermind' arrested

Indonesian police swoop at ferry terminal

Indonesia has arrested the man they had named as the mastermind of last month's Bali bombings which killed almost 200 people, the national police chief announced.

General Da'i Bachtiar said Imam Samudra, 35, was caught on a bus yesterday at the Merak ferry terminal on the north-western tip of Java as he waited to board a boat to neighbouring Sumatra.

"The investigation team has arrested three people and Imam Samudra was one of them," Gen Bachtiar said. "He did not give any resistance. He was not carrying any weapons."

The chief detective of the Jakarta force, Senior Commander Andi Chairuddin, who helped coordinate the arrest, said: "Samudra seemed resigned to his fate. He seemed to already know that he was going to be arrested."

Officers were led to Mr Samudra after they arrested two of his alleged bodyguards on Tuesday and Wednesday.

One of the men is thought to have told police that Mr Samudra, who has also been linked to other bombings across Indonesia in the past few years, had bought a ticket for a 5pm ferry yesterday.

Gen Bachtiar declined to comment on whether Mr Samudra would be kept in Jakarta or moved to Bali, where police have been holding the only other alleged plotter arrested, known only as Amrozi, for more than a fortnight.

While Amrozi, a village car mechanic from east Java, is considered little more than a junior operative in the suspected 10-member gang, Mr Samudra, or Abdul Aziz as he was born, is believed to have run the whole operation.

Police already know that the bombs at Paddy's Bar and the Sari Club in Kuta on October 12 exploded within six seconds of each other. The first was triggered by mobile phone and the second, a much bigger device, was in a minibus parked outside the nightclub.

On Sunday, the chief investigator, Major General Made Mangku Pastika, released descriptions and sketches of six men, including Mr Samudra, who they believe were involved.

On Wednesday, Gen Pastika said the suspects were probably hiding in Islamic boarding schools across Java.

It is not clear whether this was disinformation to trick Mr Samudra, or whether police believe that the remaining suspects are in such schools.

Senior Indonesian police sources said yesterday that police would be trying to discover whether Mr Samudra was acting on his own initiative or on orders from others.

Indonesia and its neighbours believe the Bali bombings were carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah, a south-east Asian Islamist terrorist network thought to have close links with al-Qaida.

Intelligence sources in Singapore alleged this week that members of Jemaah Islamiyah detained there since last November have recognised the sketches of Mr Samudra as a fairly senior Jemaah Islamiyah operative, but knew him as Qudama or Kudama.

These detainees allegedly hinted that Mr Samudra would probably have acted on the orders of regional operations chiefs and with the sanction, at the very least, of the movement's spiritual leader.

The current operations chief is believed to be one of Amrozi's elder brothers, Mukhlas, who is based in Malaysia and fairly recently replaced Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali.

Regional intelligence agencies believe the movement's spiritual leader is Abu Bakar Ba'aysir, an Indonesian cleric who co-founded Jemaah Islamiyah.

Mr Ba'aysir is being held in Jakarta on suspicion of involvement in a spate of church bombings on Christmas Eve 2000, in which Mr Samudra is also thought to have been involved. Investigators have not linked him to the Bali blasts.


John Aglionby in Jakarta

The GuardianTramp

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