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How Al Qaeda lit the Bali fuse: Part one

Nightclub bombings grew out of a network forged by marriage, training, and aid

(Page 3 of 3)

In the early days of fighting, local Christian militia groups engaged in atrocities against Muslims, just as local Muslims perpetrated atrocities against Christians. But as the war heated up and Muslim fighters began to pour into Maluku from outside, Christian forces were routed. "The Christians struck first, so we had to defend our brothers,'' says Irfan Suryadi Awwas, a leader of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI), which sent paramilitaries to Maluku. Many MMI leaders have since been tied to JI, the group accused of planning the Bali attack.

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A hotbed of Islamic activism

Nowhere was Muslim anger deeper than in Makassar, a fervently Islamic port that is the capital of South Sulawesi province and acts as a trade and cultural gateway to the Maluku provinces. A tradition of trading and seafaring has dispersed the region's people throughout Indonesia's archipelago.

Starting in early 1999, waves of Muslim refugees with family ties to the city began to return. Some made heated allegations of Christian "genocide"; these claims made their way into local and national media.
Makassar was also a hotbed of Islamic activism after the fall of Suharto, with the emergence of dozens of groups devoted to bringing sharia to the province. A leader of this movement was local businessman Agus Dwikarna. Mr. Dwikarna also happened to be Faruq's principal contact in Indonesia, according to Faruq's interrogation.

An immigration official interviewed in Makassar says an Indonesian passport was issued to Faruq on Dwikarna's recommendation, and he obtained a birth certificate in Ambon identifying him as a Maluku native after moving there in late 2000.

Faruq's wife thinks her father may have met Faruq in Makassar while on business. Makassar was also her family's link to Dwikarna: The year after her marriage, she spent time there, at one point working with Dwikarna's wife in a small baking business.

Agustina insists Faruq is an Indonesian national. "My husband was born in Maluku,'' she says. After the family moved to Ambon, she says her husband was involved in the distribution of aid, funded by Saudi charities.
She acknowledges that her father, who was killed fighting Christians in 2000, was a militia leader in the province. And her husband, she said, would often leave the house early and return late. She never asked him what he did all day and Faruq never told, she says.

Faruq's direct role in later violence should not be overstated. Dozens of men, many trained in Afghanistan, got involved with terror groups after the fall of Suharto. Some, like accused terrorist Riduan Isammudin, whose alias is Hambali, also had a direct line to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

But Faruq's work shows how Al Qaeda seeks to capitalize on unsettled situations. "Faruq is an example of how Middle Eastern terror networks hook up with Southeast Asian ones,'' says Sidney Jones, the director of the International Crisis Group's Indonesia project. "Everything from the marriage to the fake ID cards to the traveling around in the region are evidence of a pattern."

Faruq is no longer a factor. On June 5, 2002, he called his wife on his cellphone to tell her he was on his way back from the mosque. Shortly after that call, he was arrested. His wife is pursuing a lawsuit against the government over what her lawyers say was her husband's illegal arrest and delivery to US authorities.

But his violent legacy persists. The fighting in Maluku has long since cooled. But it created hundreds of veterans of the violence there, some of whom would turn to terror.

Key players among Indonesia's Islamic militants

  • Omar al-Faruq Alleged to have been Al Qaeda's main relationship manager in Southeast Asia.
  • Haris Fadillah Leader of the Laskar Mujahidin, a militia group active in the Maluku provinces; father-in-law of Omar al-Faruq.
  • Abu Zubaydah Leader of Al Qaeda's external operations.
  • Agus Dwikarna Businessman, main contact in Indonesia for Omar al-Faruq.