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Profile: Abu Bakar Bashir
a.k.a. Abubakar Ba'asyir
Abu Bakar Bashir was a participant or observer in the following events:
Hambali, an important future al-Qaeda leader, moves to the village of Sungai Manggis, Malaysia, about an hour north of the capital of Kuala Lumpur. Hambali is from nearby Indonesia and fought in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s. He starts off poor, working at odd jobs, but soon is frequently traveling and has many overseas visitors. Intriguingly, Hambali’s landlord will later say of Hambali’s visitors, “Some looked Arab and others white.” Hambali plays a major role in the 1995 Bojinka plot in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995), and after that plot is foiled he continues to live in his simple Sungai Manggis house. [Time, 4/1/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Living near Hambali in this village are other regional Islamist militant leaders such as Abdullah Sungkar, Imam Samudra (allegedly a key figure in the 2000 Christmas bombings (see December 24-30, 2000) and the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002)), Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah, and Abu Jibril. So many militants live in this village that it becomes known as “Terror HQ” to intelligence agencies. Sungkar and Bashir are considered the two most well-known militant leaders in Southeast Asia at the time (Sungkar dies of old age in 1999). Hambali’s house is directly across from Bashir’s and they are considered friends. [Tempo, 10/29/2002; Ressa, 2003] Interestingly, Fauzi Hasbi, an Indonesian government mole posing as a militant leader, lives next door to Bashir as well. [SBS Dateline, 10/12/2005] Despite his role in the Bojinka plot, Hambali continues to live there very openly. Beginning in March 1995, just two months after the plot was foiled, Hambali throws his first feast for several hundred guests to mark a Muslim holiday. This becomes an annual party. He also sometimes travels to Indonesia. [Time, 4/1/2002] By May 1999, if not earlier, the FBI connects Hambali to the Bojinka plot (see May 23, 1999). In January 2000, he attends a key al-Qaeda summit in nearby Kuala Lumpur. The CIA gets pictures and video footage of him at the meeting and already has pictures of him from a computer linked to the Bojinka plot (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 5, 2000). However, there is no apparent effort to apprehend him, extradite him, or even put him on a public wanted list. He continues to live in Sungai Manggis until at least late 2000. [Conboy, 2003]
Fauzi Hasbi. [Source: SBS Dateline]In 1992, the Southeast Asian Islamist militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is founded. It will eventually become known as al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in the region. Actually, many of its alleged founders, such as Abu Bakar Bashir, have been pressing Islamist militant causes for several decades, but with the creation of JI their efforts become more violent. Also in contrast to previous Islamist groups in the region, JI is deliberately set up as a military organization. One of the founding members of JI is Fauzi Hasbi, who has been an Indonesian government mole posing as a militant leader since the late 1970s (see 1979-February 22, 2003). Hasbi actually facilitates JI’s first major meeting, held in Bogor, Indonesia. For many years, he also lives in the same small Malaysian village as the top JI leaders, such as Bashir and Hambali (see April 1991-Late 2000). The Australian television program SBS Dateline will later comment: “The extraordinary story of Fauzi Hasbi raises many important questions about JI and the Indonesian authorities. Why didn’t they smash the terror group in its infancy?” Umar Abduh, an Indonesian Islamist convicted of terrorism and jailed for ten years, works with Hasbi. In 2005, he will claim that in retrospect he realizes that he and other militants were completely manipulated by the government. “[T]here is not a single Islamic group, either in the movement or the political groups that is not controlled by [Indonesian intelligence]. Everyone does what they say.” [New York Times, 8/27/2003; SBS Dateline, 10/12/2005]
Lamkaruna Putra. [Source: SBS Dateline]In late 1999, Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), called a meeting to improve cooperation between Islamist militant groups in Southeast Asia. The meeting is held in January 2000 at the International Islamic University in Selangor, Malaysia, and is chaired by Hambali, a leader in both JI and al-Qaeda. Militants from Burma, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines attend. They set up a forum called Rabitatul Mujahidin (RM). The Australian television news program SBS Dateline will later call the list of attendees “a who’s who of accused terrorists.”
Meeting Attendees - One attendee is Fauzi Hasbi, a JI militant who is also working as an Indonesian government mole (see 1979-February 22, 2003). Hasbi also has a private meeting in his hotel with Bashir and the representative from Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a militant group in the Philippines. Other attendees include Agus Dwikarna and Faiz abu Baker Bafana, who both assist al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia. Bafana will later help host Zacarias Moussaoui and 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar as they pass through Malaysia (see September-October 2000, October 2000 and June 2001).
Other Meetings - The group holds two more meetings later in 2000. Hasbi does not attend them, but his son Lamkaruna Putra does. The group discusses specific bombing plans in these later meetings. Hasbi also attends a meeting of Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) in November 2000. This is considered a more public umbrella group for Islamist militants. That meeting is chaired by Bashir. [International Crisis Group, 12/11/2002; Conboy, 2003, pp. 210-211; SBS Dateline, 10/12/2005] Indonesian intelligence has another deep mole known by the alias Dadang, who has penetrated militant groups since about 1992. He also attends some key MMI meetings in 2000 and 2001, but other than that, little is known about him. [Conboy, 2003, pp. 212-213] It is not known whether the Indonesian government shares its intelligence about this meeting, or the other meetings, with US intelligence. If they do, it would help the US better understand Hambali’s importance, as he attends a monitored al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia that same month (see January 5-8, 2000).
Entity Tags: Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Lamkaruna Putra, Rabitatul Mujahidin, Jemaah Islamiyah, Fauzi Hasbi, Abu Bakar Bashir, Agus Dwikarna, Faiz abu Baker Bafana, Dadang, Hambali
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Damaged cars from the Christmas Eve bombings. [Source: SBS Dateline]Al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) sets off two series of bombs, first in Indonesia, then in the Philippines. The Christmas Eve attacks in Indonesia comprise a series of 38 bombings in 11 cities and are directed against churches. Nineteen people are killed and over a hundred injured. [Asia Times, 10/8/2004] The attacks in the Philippines kill 22 and injure 120 in the country’s capital, Manila. The operation, involving attacks on a train, a bus, an abandoned petrol station, an airport car park, and a park, is apparently carried out by Indonesian JI operative Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi. [BBC, 2/27/2002] Many militants are arrested after the attacks. The investigation leads to JI and al-Qaeda leader Hambali, a veteran Islamic fighter who was involved in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), is tied to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see June 1994), and attended an al-Qaeda Malaysia summit in 2000, which was monitored by Malaysia intelligence and the CIA (see January 5-8, 2000). Although Hambali, an Indonesian, has lived in Malaysia since the mid-1990s, the authorities cannot find him and say that he has fled to Saudi Arabia (see January 2001 and after). [Jakarta Post, 2/7/2001] JI’s spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, is also arrested, but then released. [CNN, 2/26/2004] Hambali will finally be captured in August 2003 in Thailand (see August 12, 2003). In February 2001, evidence will come out suggesting links between some of the bombers and the Indonesian military (see February 20, 2001).
Hamzah Haz. [Source: Secretary of Vice President of Republic of Indonesia]Hamzah Haz supports many Islamist militants during his time as vice president of Indonesia from 2001 to 2004. Hamzah serves under President Megawati Sukarnoputri, but he heads a different political party than she does, and his party, the
United Development Party (PPP) has a more Muslim orientation. Prior to the October 2002 Bali bombings, Hamzah describes himself as “very close” to Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual head of the al-Qaeda affiliate group Jemaah Islamiyah. Just one week before the Bali bombings, he says, “If you want to arrest Abu Bakar Bashir, you will have to deal with me first.” In May 2002, he kisses both of Bashir’s cheeks in public. And in August 2002, he publicly invites Bashir to dinner. Hamzah also calls himself “very close” to Jafar Umar Thalib, the head of Laskar Jihad, an Indonesian paramilitary group responsible for killing thousands of Christians in the province of Maluku (see January 1999-July 2001). [Age (Melbourne), 10/14/2002; Time, 10/21/2002] After the Bali bombings, Hamzah tones down his support for militants such as Bashir and Thalib. However, he continues to ridicule suggestions Indonesia has a serious terrorist problem. In September 2003, he says, “Who is the real terrorist? It is the United States for they have attacked Iraq. In fact they are the king of terrorists.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/5/2003]
Al Haramain logo. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]In June 2002, al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Faruq was captured by the US and interrogated with techniques described as close to torture (see June 5, 2002). On September 9, 2002, he reportedly breaks down and immediately begins spilling secrets in great detail. He confesses that he is al-Qaeda’s senior representative in Southeast Asia. He says that al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaida and Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi had ordered him to “plan large-scale attacks against US interests in Indonesia, Malaysia, [the] Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Cambodia.” In particular, he had a plan to launch truck bomb attacks on US embassies in Southeast Asia around the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The US issues a code orange alert, and the attacks never happen. He also says that much of the money for al-Qaeda’s operations in the region comes from the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a charity closely linked to the Saudi government. Al-Faruq’s confessions are immediately leaked to Time magazine, which publishes a story about them on September 15. US investigators tell Time that Al Haramain is a “significant” source of funding for al-Qaeda linked groups in the region and they also say they are investigating possible links between al-Qaeda and top al-Haramain officials in Saudi Arabia. [Time, 9/15/2002] However, Al Haramain offices are not shut down in Southeast Asia or elsewhere. Early the next month, a car bomb and a backpack bomb hit two discotheques in Bali, Indonesia, killing over 200 people (see October 12, 2002). The London Times reports later in the month that $74,000 was sent to Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in the region. The money was spent to buy the explosives for the bombing from the Indonesian military. Furthermore, Jemaah Islamiyah was mainly funded by money from Al Haramain. [London Times, 10/20/2002] However, Al Haramain still is not shut down. In late 2003, it is announced that the charity’s Indonesian branch is shutting down, but in fact it secretly changes locations and stays open. All Al Haramain branches worldwide will finally be shut down in 2004 (see March 2002-September 2004). [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 38-41]
US officials hold a secret meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and strongly urge her to allow the US to rendition Abu Bakar Bashir out of the country. Bashir is a radical Islamist imam alleged to be the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), al-Qaeda’s main Southeast Asian affiliate. US ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce, National Security Council official Karen Brooks, and a CIA official meet with Megawati at her home in Jakarta. The interpreter is an American named Fred Burks, who will later reveal details of the meeting during an Indonesian trial. Burks claims the CIA official tells Megawati that Bashir was responsible for a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Indonesia in 2000 and asks to rendition him. Megawati had allowed the US to rendition two suspects earlier in the year, Omar al-Faruq and Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni (see June 5, 2002 and Early January-January 9, 2002).
But neither of them are Indonesian citizens, whereas Bashir is. Megawati rejects the request, saying Bashir is too popular to simply disappear without repercussions. (Megawati’s Vice President Hamzah Haz describes himself as “very close” to Bashir, and shortly after this meeting he says publicly, “If you want to arrest Abu Bakar Bashir, you will have to deal with me first” (see July 23, 2001-October 20, 2004).) Burks claims that Megawati says: “I can’t render somebody like him. People will find out.” Boyce will later claim that the US did press forcefully for Indonesia to arrest Bashir because the CIA had just learned from interrogating al-Faruq that Bashir was the head of a terrorist network that was about to attack Indonesia. However, he will deny the US wanted to rendition him. Boyce will later call the meeting the centerpiece of a month-long series of meetings with Indonesian officials in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack in Indonesia. [BBC, 1/3/2005; Boston Globe, 3/2/2005] However, the Bali bombings take place one month later, killing over 200 (see October 12, 2002). In 2005, Bashir will be acquitted of charges that he was involved in any terrorist acts and set free after serving a year in prison on minor charges (see March 3, 2005).
Abu Bakar Bashir. [Source: US National Counterterrorism Center]Abu Bakar Bashir, allegedly the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in Southeast Asia, is acquitted of most charges in a trial in Indonesia. Bashir, a well-known radical imam, had been accused of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002) and 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing (see August 5, 2003). However, he is only convicted of one charge of criminal conspiracy, because the judges say he knew the bombers and his words may have encouraged them. Bashir is sentenced to 30 months in prison, but is released after serving only one year due to good behavior. In late 2006, the Indonesian supreme court will void his one conviction altogther. [New York Times, 3/4/2005; Associated Press, 12/26/2006] The New York Times will later report: “Legal observers here said the case against Mr. Bashir was weak. The strongest evidence linking him to the Bali terrorist attacks was never heard by the five-judge panel because of a decision by the Bush administration that the Indonesian government would not be allowed to interview two senior al-Qaeda operatives, Riudan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, and Omar al-Faruq.” The CIA has been holding Hambali and al-Faruq in secret prisons since 2003 and 2002 respectively (see August 12, 2003 and June 5, 2002). [New York Times, 6/14/2006] One Indonesian counterterrorism official says: “We need[ed] Hambali very much. We [fought] to get access to him, but we have failed.” An unnamed Australian official complains that the US was hypocritical in pressing Indonesia to prosecute Bashir and then doing nothing to help convict him. [New York Times, 3/4/2005] Al-Faruq allegedly told the CIA that Bashir had provided logistical and financial support for several terrorist attacks, but he was also interrogated by techniques considered close to torture. The US allowed Indonesian officials to directly interrogate al-Faruq in 2002, but then prohibited any later access to him (see June 5, 2002). And shortly after Hambali’s arrest in 2003, President Bush promised to allow Hambali to be tried in Indonesia, but then failed to even give Indonesians any access to him (see October 23, 2003).
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