Bin Laden’s Brother-in-Law Khalifa Behind Bali Bombings

No group claimed responsibility for the two car bombs that turned the Indonesian island paradise of Bali into a fiery inferno Saturday, October 12, killing close to 200 and maiming many hundreds. But the hand of al Qaeda was hard to miss.
According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, Osama Bin Laden’s own brother in law, Mohammed Khalifa, overall operations chief for al Qaeda in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and other parts of South East Asia, engineered the Bali horror
Not only did the brutal massacre bear all the hallmarks of Osama bin Laden’s deadly network, it occurred on the second anniversary of the day that a suicide cell in a speedboat struck the USS Cole in Aden harbor, six days after a copycat strike against the French oil tanker Limburg off the Yemeni coast, four days after a US Marine was killed and another wounded in a shooting attack in Kuwait, and just about a week after the recorded voices of Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahri scattered dire threats over the Arab satellite TV station, Al Jazeera.
The time spread is too tight to be random; the geographical spread too broad for any but a far-flung network. The ability to strike where least expected is a recurring feature in Osama bin Laden’s blood-spattered record. But the Islamist movement’s affinity with Iraq is the common thread running through the al Qaeda terror offensive erupting this month.
The two Kuwait assailants, who were shot dead themselves, had trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. The Yemen Abu Abayda Islamic Army, associated with al Qaeda, posted a message claiming a US frigate was its first target, but bombing the French oil tanker was just as good because the French were also infidels and willing to fight Iraq alongside America.
The Indonesian government, insistently warned that terror was brewing in the sprawling country, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has failed to stand up to the strong opposition to preventive arrests of suspected terrorists without irrefutable evidence. Some Muslim factions claim a crackdown on the extremists and their front organizations, who are grouped under the umbrella Jemaah Islamiya, would only enhance their glamour in the eyes of the Muslim masses. In the days of President Suharto, the Muslim right was at the forefront of the political opposition. Its leaders were imprisoned, to emerge after his resignation in 1998 as popular heroes.
Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, who fled to Malaysia, returned home to lead the Jemaah Islamiya, the JI, with the aim of setting up an Islamic state in Indonesia. Inspired by Hasan al-Banna, founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, he preached jihad as the means to that end. Laterm falling under the influence of al Qaeda, the JI went international. Malaysia and Singapore say it is the aim of Jemaah Islamiya, to set up an Islamic state in South East Asia covering Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the southern Philippines. They accuse the Megawati government of being soft on the group because Ba’asyir has sympathizers in her government.
In December 2001, three months after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Singapore authorities arrested fifteen Muslim extremists suspected of acting for al Qaeda. Thirteen were identified as members of the JI, of whom eight were trained in Afghanistan camps. They were alleged to be plotting to bomb a bus ferrying US troops and US naval vessels docked in Singapore.
Singapore senior minister Lee Kuan Yew stated on May 2002 that interrogation of the suspects had disclosed their linkso Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and the JI.
One of Ba’asyir’s closest associates, Abu Jibril aka Fihiruddin is believed to be the financial bagman for al Qaeda in the region. Another, Hambali, aka Nurjaman, described by Lee as Ba’asyir’s senior lieutenant, has been linked to a wave of bombings in Indonesia in December 2000 and attacks in Manila. Suspected of direct links with al Qaeda, his current whereabouts are unknown
The writing was on the wall for those who would read it. The government in Djakarta was warned by Washington that terrorist attacks were brewing. Australian officials, confirming this, furiously accused Indonesia Sunday night of ignoring warnings and a failure of intelligence.
Three quarters of the Bali victims were foreigners – the largest group Australian. Among the hundreds missing were members of the Australian, Singaporean and Hong Kong rugby teams. Australian Prime Minister John Howard declared the war on terror must go on with unrelenting vigor. Earlier he ordered an urgent security review. “People should get out of their minds that it can’t happen here; it can and it has happened to our own on our doorstep,” he said.
The Bali atrocity has finally hammered home that al Qaeda is on the rampage again and has more terror attacks in store. Senator Richard Shelby, top ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told ABCTV: “I believe that this is the beginning of a lot more that we’re going to see, perhaps in the US, although we hope not.”
Not only the US and Australia, but neighboring Malaysia and Singapore too, charged that the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiya is linked to al Qaeda and was planning terrorist attacks. Ba’asyir does not hide his admiration for bin Laden, but denies any terror connections. Two weeks ago, he threatened to sue Time Magazine for defamation after it linked him to terrorist activities. He lives openly in Indonesia because the government says it has no evidence against him. Last week, the US ambassador to Indonesia warned he would withdraw embassy staff unless security was improved, after a grenade explosion near the embassy residence on September 23.
After the Bali bombings, US government began considering scaling down its presence in Indonesia, advising Americans to consider whether their presence in the country is essential.
Belatedly, President Megawati Sukarnoputri, after flying to Bali to inspect the wreckage, declared a security alert for strategic targets.

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