How Al Qaeda lit the Bali fuse: Part three
A bomber tries to realize his vision of a global Muslim uprising
(Page 2 of 4)
At the end of February 2001, Halim and a small group of comrades were sent to Jakarta. There they were met by Edi Setiono, a JI member who asked Mr. Halim's group if they'd be willing to participate in attacks on three Jakarta churches.Skip to next paragraph
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The men agreed, and the bombings were carried out on July 22 and August 1. "Our motivation ... was revenge," Halim said in his deposition. "In Eastern Indonesia, many Christians are involved in slaughtering the Muslim population."
Though they'd only met a few times, Halim says Samudra coordinated the operation. The bomb Halim was carrying went off early, claiming his leg, and leading to both his and Setiono's capture. But Samudra got away.
A dream of fighting in Afghanistan
The glowering and quick-witted Samudra, now 33, attended a religiously conservative high school in Serang in Banten Province and moved to the West Java city of Bandung in 1990 on a scholarship to the State Islamic Studies Institute.
He quickly dropped out as he became interested in the Afghan resistance against the Soviets and the movement to make Indonesia an Islamic state.
According to a detailed statement he gave police, he immersed himself in Koran reading groups that "emphasized the glory of becoming a martyr'' and dreamed of fighting in Afghanistan.
In 1991 he moved to Jakarta and met Enjang Bustaman, a man who could make his dreams come true.
Bustaman, better known as Jabir, had fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980s alongside Riduan Isammudin - another Indonesian who would become famous under his alias Hambali as the operations head of JI and a full member of Al Qaeda in his own right. Both men received training at camps run by bin Laden.
A rising star
All of this made Jabir the Jemaah Islamiyah equivalent of a made man. He advised Samudra to join a Koran reading session at the Islamic Propagation Council - a group obsessed with an external conspiracy to 'Christianize' Indonesia - and bide his time. In 1991, Jabir came to Samudra and told him it was time for a "real jihad."
He arranged a visa and told Samudra to make his way to friends in Malaysia. Jabir warned him not to tell anyone, not even his mother, of his plans. From Malaysia, Samudra flew to Karachi and from there took a bus to the Afghan border, where he was met by one of Jabir's contacts. This man guided Samudra through the cold and unfamiliar landscape to bin Laden's training camp in Khost.
Learning the trade
There, Samudra learned the handling of assault rifles, rudimentary bomb construction, and the importance of maintaining secrecy in terrorist operations. Then he went to the front.
He stayed until mid- 1993, when he moved to Johor, Malaysia. The core group of operatives who would coordinate JI's terror attacks (Hambali, Ali Ghufron alias Mukhlas, Jabir, the Malaysian Professor Azahari bin Husin) were spending time here, as were the organization's spiritual leaders.
Samudra was now a made man himself. By 1998, the Suharto dictatorship had fallen, and trained operatives like Samudra were looking for an excuse to use their skills.
The right venue
The Maluku conflict provided it. Some time in 2000, Samudra opened a small training camp for would-be jihaddis in his home province of Banten, not far from Jakarta.