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Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 15:28 GMT
Indonesia arrests key Muslim militant
Chief investigator Pastika holds up a picture of Mukhlas
Police hope for a breakthrough on the Bali bombing
Indonesian police have arrested a man they say is operations chief of the Muslim militant group Jemaah Islamiah, which several governments have linked to the Bali bombings.

The man, Mukhlas, has not been implicated in the bombings on Bali in October, but he is linked to other violence in the region.

He is the older brother of Amrozi, who was arrested in connection with the Bali blasts last month.

Mukhlas' brother, Amrozi, is already in custody
Police say Amrozi has admitted to owning the van used to blow up one of the nightclubs in Bali.

Mukhlas was detained along with seven other people, including his wife, said Erwin Mappaseng, chief of the criminal investigation department of the Indonesian police.

According to Central Java provincial police chief Major General Didi Widayadi they included another man who was listed as a chief suspect in the blast two weeks ago - Ali Imron, another brother of Amrozi.

JI role

Mukhlas, alias Ali Gufron, was arrested close to the Central Javanese town of Solo, police said.

He was said by Indonesian police last week to have taken over the role of JI operations chief from a man known as Hambali, one of the region's most wanted men.

Jemaah Islamiah has been named by several governments as the most likely suspect for the Bali attacks, which killed more than 190 people.

The US has branded the group as a terrorist organisation and said it has links with al-Qaeda.

Indonesian police are also currently holding between 15 and 20 other people accused of varying degrees of involvement in the Bali blasts.

Regional alert

The Australian and Canadian embassies are still closed in the Philippines, after citing an "imminent" terrorist threat against the missions from Islamic militants.

The authorities in the Philippines have criticised the closures, arguing that the intelligence behind them had not been shared with them.

And governments in the region have been enraged by comments made by the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, at the weekend, in which he said that he would be prepared to launch pre-emptive strikes against militants in neighbouring countries if he thought Australia was under threat.

Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, threatened on Wednesday to break off counter-terrorism co-operation with Australia unless Mr Howard stopped behaving like "the white-man sheriff in some black country".

On Friday, Malaysian police said they had arrested one of the few significant members of JI still at large in the country.

They hope he will provide a lead to higher-ranking fugitives, including the Malaysian man known as Hambali.

Imam Samudra, also under arrest in Indonesia on suspicion of involvement in the Bali blasts, has admitted having met Hambali when they were both in Malaysia in the 1990s.

Hambali ran a religious school in southern Johor state where Imam Samudra was a teacher and Amrozi was a student.

The BBC's Phil Rees reports from Bangkok
"Mukhlas was detained... along with his wife and eight others"
The BBC's Rachel Harvey
"This could be the biggest breakthrough in the investigation so far"

Key stories




See also:

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04 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
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