Top JI leader in US custody

The suspected leader of a South East Asian outlawed group has been arrested, the White House announced on Thursday.

    Hambali now being interrogated at undisclosed location by US officials

    Jimaah Islamiya’s Ridwan Isam al-Din, known as Hambali, is wanted by authorities in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore in connection with a series of bombings over three years.

    The 36 year old fugitive, and the organisation he is believed to help lead, has been linked with the Bali bombings. The US administration believes Hambali is also linked to Usama Bin Ladin’s al-Qaida network.

    In US custody

    Speaking from President Bush’s Air Force One, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "His capture is another important victory in the global war on terrorism and a significant blow to the enemy."

    McClellan refused to say where Hambali was arrested and which governments were involved in providing intelligence.

    The spokesman would only confirm the detainee was being interrogated at an undisclosed location in South East Asia and was in US custody.

    Last Thursday, Indonesian police linked Hambali to the bombing of a US-run luxury hotel in Jakarta last week in which 10 people died.

    International fugitive

    South Asian investigators have been searching for Hambali since May 2002. 

    Analysts say Hambali and his followers sought to establish an Islamic state across Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and parts of the Philippines. Jimaah Islamiya means “Islamic community”.

    Hambali has Malaysian residency, but the authorities in Malaysia and the Philippines believe he was hiding in Indonesia.

    Brief biography

    • Born in West Java in 1966, into family of 13 children.

    • In his teens, Hambali reacted against the repression of the Suharto government in the late 70s and 80s.

    • In 1985, aged 19, he sought exile in Malaysia, along with JI leader Baasyir.

    • Travelled to Afghanistan in 1988 to fight as a mujahid guerrilla against Soviet occupation.

    • Returned to Malaysia in 1990, with the aim of setting up a pan-Asian Islamic state.

    • With Suharto's overthrow in 1998, Hambali is believed to have returned to Indonesia to recruit supporters.

    • Philippine prosecutors charged Hambali in absentia with involvement in a plot to smuggle explosives from the Philippines to Singapore in 2000, for an attack on US and Israeli targets.



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