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Profile: Mukhlas

Ali Ghufron, aka Mukhlas,at Batu prison on Nusakambangan island, Indonesia (01/10/2008)
Mukhlas said he was a "small fry" terrorist compared to world leaders
Mukhlas, executed in November 2008, five years after being found guilty of masterminding the Bali bombings, believed he would die as a martyr in a holy war.

At his trial in 2003, the Muslim preacher, who also known as Ali Ghufron, admitted involvement in the Bali attack but denied a direct role in the actual bombings.

Prosecutors said he had overall responsibility for the attack, authorising it and helping to plan and fund it.

"Whatever happens to him, he believes that his action is a form of jihad (holy war) and he will die as a martyr," said one of his lawyers, Wirawan Adnan.

Mukhlas also worked on an autobiography, said the lawyer, painting the Bali bombing as "an act of vengeance for America's tyranny against Muslims in the Middle East".

At the opening of his trial, termed himself merely a "small fry terrorist" compared to "big fish" such as US President George W Bush, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

"If these terrorists are allowed to continue having their way, they will drop their nuclear bombs in the near future," he told the court.

But the court judged that Mukhlas was far from small fry. Police said he attended the Bali plotters' initial meeting, in Bangkok in February 2002, at which a decision was taken to bomb "soft" targets.

Mukhlas told his court hearing what regional intelligence chiefs had believed for some time - that he was the new head of operations of the regional militant group, Jemaah Islamiah, which the US links to al-Qaeda.

Giving evidence in the case against Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, Mukhlas said he knew Osama Bin Laden well.

Religious guidance

Mukhlas said he went to Pakistan in 1989, met Arab mujahideen there, and joined them in Afghanistan.

He is the older brother of Amrozi, who has executed on the same day for buying explosives and a van used in the bombings, and Ali Imron, who has been jailed for life for helping assemble the bombs and driving the van that carried them.

Amrozi is reported to have said that Mukhlas was a religious inspiration to him when the two brothers were reunited in Malaysia in the early 1990s.

Indonesian police chief General Da'i Bachtiar said after interrogating Amrozi that the younger man had spoken of the influence Mukhlas had on him.

"He felt he had truly found a brother who could guide him and give him religious guidance, because he saw his brother was no longer a mischievous kid."

Mukhlas is believed to have continued giving Amrozi religious instruction when they later returned to Java.

Like many of the Bali suspects, he is thought to have studied at the Islamic boarding school in Solo, Central Java, run by Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who was found guilty of subversion by an Indonesian court last month.

Mukhlas is also believed to have preached to other extremists from behind bars - a militant arrested in 2007 told police he had heard Muklhas give a sermon to a congregation in Sulawesi by telephone.

Mukhlas and the two other men sentenced to death for the bombing lodged an appeal in 2006 against their execution by firing squad.

They said they wanted to be beheaded, as it was a more humane and Islamic method of execution, but the request was overturned.

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