Did Osama bin Laden have anything to do with the weekend massacre in the Indonesian paradise of Bali?
A report by DEBKAfile suggests bin Laden's brother-in-law, Mohammed Khalifa, was the mastermind.
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No group has claimed responsibility for the two car bombs that turned the popular tourist area into a fiery inferno Saturday, killing close to 200 and injuring hundreds.
But according to DEBKA's counter-terror sources, Khalifa – overall operations chief for al-Qaida in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and other parts of Southeast Asia – engineered the horror.
"Not only did the attack bear all the hallmarks of bin Laden's network, it occurred on the second anniversary of the day that a suicide cell in a speedboat struck the USS Cole in Aden Harbor, six days after a copycat strike against the French oil tanker Limburg off the Yemeni coast, four days after a U.S. Marine was killed and another wounded in a shooting attack in Kuwait, and about a week after the recorded voices of bin Laden and Ayman Zawahri scattered threats on the Arab satellite-TV station, al-Jazeera," the report said.
According to DEBKA, which offers analysis along with news reporting, the time spread is too tight to be random and the geographical spread too broad for any but a widespread network:
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- "The Indonesian government, insistently warned that terror was brewing in ... the world's most populous Muslim nation, has failed to stand up to the strong opposition to preventive arrests of suspected terrorists without irrefutable evidence. Some Muslim factions claim a crackdown on the extremists and their front organizations, who are grouped under the umbrella Jemaah Islamiya, would only enhance their glamour in the eyes of the Muslim masses. In the days of President Suharto, the Muslim right was at the forefront of the political opposition. Its leaders were imprisoned, to emerge after his resignation in 1998 as popular heroes.
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who fled to Malaysia, returned home to lead the Jemaah Islamiya, with the aim of setting up an Islamic state in Indonesia. Inspired by Hasan al-Banna, founder of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, he preached jihad as the means to that end. Later falling under the influence of al Qaeda, the JI went international. Malaysia and Singapore say it is the aim of Jemaah Islamiya, to set up an Islamic state in Southeast Asia covering Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the southern Philippines. They accuse the Megawati government of being soft on the group because Ba'asyir has sympathizers in her government.
In December 2001, three months after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Singapore authorities arrested fifteen Muslim extremists suspected of acting for al-Qaida. Thirteen were identified as members of the JI, of whom eight were trained in Afghanistan camps. They were alleged to be plotting to bomb a bus ferrying U.S. troops and U.S. naval vessels docked in Singapore.
Singapore senior minister Lee Kuan Yew stated in May that interrogation of the suspects had disclosed their links to Abu Bakar Ba'asyir and the JI.
One of Ba'asyir's closest associates, Abu Jibril aka Fihiruddin is believed to be the financial bagman for al-Qaida in the region. Another, Hambali, also known as Nurjaman, described by Lee as Ba'asyir's senior lieutenant, has been linked to a wave of bombings in Indonesia in December 2000 and attacks in Manila. Suspected of direct links with al-Qaida, his current whereabouts are unknown. ...
The government in Jakarta was warned by Washington that terrorist attacks were brewing. Australian officials, confirming this, furiously accused Indonesia Sunday night of ignoring warnings and a failure of intelligence.
Three quarters of the Bali victims were foreigners – the largest group Australian. Among the hundreds missing were members of the Australian, Singaporean and Hong Kong rugby teams. ...
Not only the U.S. and Australia, but neighboring Malaysia and Singapore charged that the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiya is linked to al-Qaida and was planning terrorist attacks. Ba'asyir does not hide his admiration for bin Laden, but denies any terror connections.
Two weeks ago, he threatened to sue Time Magazine for defamation after it linked him to terrorist activities. He lives openly in Indonesia because the government says it has no evidence against him. Last week, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia warned he would withdraw embassy staff unless security was improved, after a grenade explosion near the embassy residence on September 23.
After the Bali bombings, [the] U.S. government began considering scaling down its presence in Indonesia, advising Americans to consider whether their presence in the country is essential."