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 Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Indonesia probes al-Qaeda links
Australian forensic experts at the scene of the bomb blast in Bali, 17 October 2002
One focus is on the plastic explosive used
Indonesia has confirmed evidence that appears to link Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiah to al-Qaeda, days after a bomb in Bali killed nearly 200 people.

The confirmation came after Indonesia carried out its own interrogation of a Kuwaiti man the US accuses of being al-Qaeda's senior representative in South-East Asia.

And on Thursday, Indonesia's Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said foreigners may have been involved in the Bali attack, though he did not name any groups.

Indonesian Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono talks to the press at a hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Oct. 17, 2002.
Security minister: Foreigners may have been involved
His comments came as speculation mounted that Indonesian investigators are focusing on a group of eight suspects, including a Malaysian.

Police have said the nightclub bombing was planned to maximise the death toll using the military explosive C4, which was also used in the bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen two years ago.

Foreign governments have named regional Islamic group Jemaah Isamiah (JI) as key suspects in the Bali bomb, with some analysts describing the group as al-Qaeda's South East Asian wing.

Indonesian cleric

According to Time magazine, quoting a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report last month, the Kuwaiti man accused of al-Qaeda links, Omar al-Faruq, has admitted planning a series of bombs targeting US embassies in South East Asia timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 11 September attacks.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir (AP)
Mr Ba'asyir teaches at an Islamic school (AP)
He has also implicated an Indonesian cleric, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, in the plot. Mr Ba'asyir - widely believed to be JI's main leader - denies the allegations.

But with the Indonesian authorities now apparently confirming the CIA's report, our correspondent in Jakarta, Richard Galpin, says it looks increasingly likely that Mr Ba'asyir will be detained for police questioning.

Indonesia has so far resisted pressure from the US, Malaysia and Singapore to arrest Mr Ba'asyir, saying it did not have enough evidence.

On Thursday however, the security minister, Mr Yudhoyono, indicated that authorities may move against the cleric.

"We could also (take legal action) against Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, but we are still unable to say which organisation is behind this," Mr Yudhoyono said in Bali.

Indonesia is expected to sign a tough new anti-terror law on Friday.

'Malaysian bomb expert'

The Indonesian authorities had previously questioned the credibility of the CIA report, but its own police team has now returned from the US where it questioned Mr al-Faruq.

Mr al-Faruq was arrested in Indonesia in June and deported to the US to be interrogated by the CIA. According to the US, he at first said very little, but then in early September he broke down.

Malaysian police believe an alleged Malaysian bomb expert was involved in the Bali nightclub attack, a senior Malaysian Government official told The Associated Press news agency on Thursday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Malaysian intelligence showed a 45-year-old former university lecturer, Azahari Husin, was "likely to have had a hand in the bombing".

Police have previously named Mr Azahari as a suspected member of JI. He was among a group of seven suspected militants who fled to Indonesia in January.

The government official said Mr Azahari had received extensive bomb-making training in Afghanistan before 2001.

"Azahari is well trained in all types of bombs, especially remote-controlled explosives," the official said. "He has experience in handling large amounts of explosives."

The official said another formerly Malaysian-based suspected JI leader, may have been involved.

Riduan Isamudin, or Hambali - an Indonesian with Malaysian residency - is wanted in Malaysia and Singapore over an alleged plot to bomb the US embassy and other Western targets in Singapore.

The alleged plot was foiled after Singapore arrested dozens of suspects in December and January.

Malaysia and Singapore have arrested almost 100 suspected militants in total, all of whom are being held under laws allowing detention without trial.

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