Bin Laden Material Linked To Suspected Bali Bomber

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - Indonesian and Australian police investigating last month's bombing in Bali have found material featuring Osama bin Laden in the house of the man who allegedly confessed to masterminding the attack.

Books and two boxes of video compact discs of speeches by the al Qaeda leader were found in the house rented by Imam Samudra, Commissioner Rus Bagyo told reporters.

Indonesian media named one of the CDs titles as "Five Solutions To Overcome Terrorist U.S." and said the books were on the subject of jihad (holy war).

Samudra's capture late last week and subsequent reported confession has been hailed as a critical breakthrough - not just in the Bali probe, but also in the wider investigation into militant networks in Southeast Asia.

Samudra has been identified as one of the top handful of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leaders in the region.

The network's fugitive leader, a cleric named Hambali, is understood to be the link man between JI and al Qaeda, or possibly even the overall head of al Qaeda's operations in southeast Asia.

A third leader, Abu Bakar Bashir - another cleric - is in police custody in Jakarta.

Although Bashir isn't suspected of involvement in Bali, but rather in a series of earlier bombings at churches in Indonesia, the police probe is drawing together strands pointing to a well-organized terrorist network, with Bashir and Hambali as the lynchpins.

The house where the bin Laden material was found was in a village several kilometers from the Islamic boarding school Bashir heads.

Police also searched two other houses nearby, finding in one of them rifle ammunition and a small amount of fertilizer they said could be used in bomb-making. They are examining the contents of a laptop computer found at one of the homes.

Unlike Bashir, who has denied all accusations of terrorism, police said Samudra was talking freely about his role in terrorism, the police reported.

He admitted to a role in the 2000 church bombing spree, in which 19 people died and dozens more were injured, as well as another blast at a Jakarta shopping center in August 2001.

The mall explosion occurred when the bomb exploded prematurely, injuring the man carrying it and several passersby. During the bomber's trial last May, prosecutors said the target had been Christians at or near the mall.

Samudra also confessed to masterminding the Bali bombing - more than 190 people were killed on Oct. 12 in two consecutive blasts at nightclubs on the resort island - and, police say, provided a considerable amount of information about the attack.

Shortly after his arrest, Samudra admitted he planned the attack, saying his aim was to avenge what he called injustices suffered by Muslims around the world.

According to Samudra, a smaller bombing that occurred first - apparently designed to draw out revelers from nearby clubs so as to cause maximum damage when the main explosion took place moments later - was a suicide bombing.

National police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said the suspect named the accomplice who had detonated the first bomb, and been killed by it, as Iqbal.

Up to now, police had thought the first bomb had been left by a terrorist who then fled on the back of a motorcycle.

Gen. Made Pastika, head of the multinational investigating team, said police were trying to establish whether Iqbal's self-inflicted death had been deliberate or the result of an "accident" - presumably a premature detonation.

Suicide bombings, popular among Palestinian, Kashmiri and Tamil terrorists, have until now been unheard of in Indonesia.

Samudra is one of seven suspects now in detention. One of the others, known as Amrozi, has also confessed.

Pastika said Samudra had expressed no regret during interrogation over the loss of life. In earlier questioning, Amrozi said he was disappointed the bombers had failed to kill more Americans.

Four U.S. citizens were killed in the attack. Other victims were mostly from a range of European and Asian countries. The largest number came from Australia, whose government said at the weekend that the number of confirmed Australian dead had risen to 81.

More than 100 Australian officers and others from several other countries including the U.S., are helping in the investigation.

Equating Islam with terrorism

Indonesian police have yet to definitively attribute the Bali bombing to JI. Da'i told reporters that interrogators would continue to probe suspects for links to any militant groups

He said Samudra had described the plotters as people with "shared ideas and opinions."

A group calling itself the Muslim Lawyers Team is planning to represent Samudra and Amrozi, the Jakarta Post reports.

The daily said this development has upset legal experts, who have argued that using a "Muslim" label will merely strengthen the perception that "Islam is equatable with terrorism."

The Muslim Lawyers Team is also helping to represent alleged JI spiritual leader Bashir, and has in the past provided legal aid to another radical Islamist, Jafar Umar Thalib, it said.

Jafar was leader of the Laskar Jihad group implicated in years of anti-Christian violence in Maluku and Central Sulawesi provinces. The group claimed last month it was shutting down.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow