Indonesia claims it has evidence that al-Qaeda planned and executed yesterday’s bombings on Bali that killed 26 people and wounded more than 100 others. Counterterrorist investigators claim that two “fugitive” AQ masterminds still want to hit more soft targets — in other words, civilians:
Indonesia said Sunday it suspected two fugitives linked to al-Qaida masterminded the suicide bombings of crowded restaurants in tourist areas of Bali that killed at least 26 people and injured more than 100. The nation’s president, meanwhile, warned that more terrorist attacks are possible. …
Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, a top Indonesian anti-terror official, identified the two suspected masterminds of Saturday’s bombings as Malaysians alleged to be key members of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group.
They are also accused of orchestrating the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, as well as two other attacks in the Indonesian capital in 2003 and 2004. The nightclub bombings, which also struck venues crowded with tourists on a Saturday night, killed 202 people, most of them foreigners.
Six Americans were wounded in the attack. No one knows whether the Indonesians counted the suicide bombers among the 26 dead, but they definitely identified which remains are the terrorists. “All that is left is their head and feet,” Mbai told the Associated Press, saying that the missing middle indicates waist belts for explosives.
The AQ plotters wanted by the Indonesians are Azhari bin Husin and Noordin Mohammed Top. Neither have become household names, but they aren’t completely unknown, either. The Australian mentioned both of them earlier this week in a now-foolish column by Gareth Evans dismissing the threat of Jemaah Islamiyah:
As to the specific risk posed by terrorist groups operating in and from Indonesia — naturally centre-front in people’s minds given the horrors perpetrated against Australian targets in Bali in 2002 and Jakarta last year — Crisis Group’s perception is that the Jemaah Islamiyah regional division that covered Australia has been effectively smashed by Indonesian police and intelligence operations (well supported by Australian agencies), and that JI no longer poses a serious threat in Indonesia or elsewhere.
The fugitive Malaysian bomb-makers for the embassy attack – Noordin Mohammed Top and Azhari bin Husin – may be tempted by another Western target in Indonesia, but a household name US enterprise is seen as more likely than anything identifiably Australian. And we have never had any information suggesting that there are sleeper cells in Australia or any thought of targeting Australia in this way. …
Of course there have been some apparent successes, such as the capturing or killing of two-thirds of al-Qa’ida’s leadership, but while this has undoubtedly diminished al-Qa’ida’s organisational capacity it hasn’t done anything to diminish its global following.
Much more successful was the police operation in Indonesia against JI. Interestingly, in Crisis Group’s judgment, it was done in a way that avoided arbitrary arrests, with every person being detained for more than a few days being held on the basis of solid evidence. In doing so, the police helped create the necessary political space to work against terrorism.
Evans claimed in his column and speech at the University of NSW that the Indonesian approach to Islamofascist terror — the law-enforcement approach — had effectively ended the terror threat against Indonesian targets. His New South Wales audience can be forgiven for their confusion less than a week later to see Bali blown apart again by the same JI that Evans dismissed so casually on Tuesday.
Thanks to that law-enforcement approach, Top and Husin will become household names now.