SE Asian Terrorists Cash-Strapped After Losing Saudi Funding

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

( - Terrorists in Southeast Asia were funded by Saudi Arabia until that source was cut off by the arrest of a middleman, forcing the terrorists to sell mobile phone vouchers to finance their activities, Indonesian lawmakers have been told.

The country's police chief, General Sutanto, told members of a parliamentary body that a group formerly led by a terrorist named Azahari bin-Husin was struggling financially.

One of the region's most-wanted men, Azahari was killed earlier this month in a bomb blast during an armed clash with Indonesian police at house in Java, Indonesia's main island.

The Malaysian, a bomb maker associated with the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah (JI) network, was blamed for deadly bombings in Bali and Jakarta.

Sutarto said Azahari's group had received money from Saudi Arabia until the arrest of a man in 2003 who had been a conduit for the funds disrupted the flow. He did not elaborate on the source within Saudi Arabia.

"After we had arrested this suspect, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and terrorists in Indonesia was interrupted," Indonesia's Tempo newspaper quoted Sutarto as saying. "They are now having difficulties in the funding of their activities."

Since then, the terrorists have had to rely on the sale of vouchers for pre-paid mobile phones.

Sutarto did not say where police had obtained the information about the Saudi funding and financial difficulties, but the house where Azahari and another man were killed on Nov. 9 has produced considerable intelligence for anti-terror investigators.

Australian federal police commissioner Mick Keelty told a security conference in Sydney Monday that police had found documents and computer files which provide new insights into JI.

The information, he said, reveals "sophisticated surveillance, sophisticated intelligence and recruitment techniques, and actually spells out how and why targets are selected."

There was also intricate detail about bombs, said Keelty, who added that the Indonesian police had passed on the information to their Australian counterparts.

Another Malaysian close to Azahari, Noordin Mohammed Top, remains at large.

In a video clip also found at the house a masked man believed to be Top threatens future attacks against Western targets, singling out Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer by name.

It's also been reported in recent days that the Azahari-Top group was planning a series of bombings against churches in Indonesia over Christmas, in a bid to trigger a new Muslim-Christian conflict like one which cost thousands of lives in Maluku and Sulawesi provinces between 1999 and 2002.

Cornelius Bohm, a Catholic priest attached to a crisis center in the Maluku capital, Ambon, said Tuesday security measures have been stepped up in the light of the latest reports.

Police had intensified the checking of identity cards and motor vehicles, and a number of churches in Ambon had begun nighttime patrols by members of the congregation, planned to continue until the New Year, Bohm said.

On Christmas Eve in 2000, a series of bomb blasts at Indonesian churches, attributed to JI, killed 19 people.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow