Indonesian police have arrested the alleged leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian terror group blamed for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings and a series of other attacks in recent years, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Abu Dujana, an Afghan-trained militant fluent in Arabic, was detained Saturday along with seven other suspected terrorists in raids on the country’s main island of Java, said police spokesman Sisno Adiwinoto. He was being held at an undisclosed location.
Adiwinoto said that Dujana played a key role in all of the attacks and that he — like scores of other militants in Afghanistan in the late '80s and early '90s — personally met Osama bin Laden.
Dujana, 37, allegedly became Jemaah Islamiyah’s leader four years ago, at a time when police said the group was receiving funds and direction from bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.
His capture was seen as a major victory in the fight against terrorism in Indonesia, a secular nation with the world’s largest Muslim population.
One leading Islamiyah analyst, Sidney Jones, called it a “major triumph,” saying Dujana knows “everything there is to know” about the group.
String of attacks
The 2002 Bali bombings killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. They were the first in a string of attacks in Indonesia targeting Western interests. Twelve people were killed in a 2003 attack on the J.W. Marriott Hotel in the capital.
The following year 11 people were killed in a 2004 attack on the Australian Embassy that prosecutors have said was motivated by Australia’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq.
Bali came under attack again in 2005 when three suicide bombers targeted three tourist-packed restaurants on the resort island, killing 20 people.
Jemaah Islamiyah also has been blamed for attacks in the Philippines, while Malaysia and Singapore have arrested several dozen alleged members in recent years.
Like most of Jemaah Islamiyah’s hardcore members, Dujana fled to Malaysia in the 1990s to avoid a crackdown by former dictator Suharto, police say. Abu Rusdan, the man police say Dujana replaced as head of Jemaah Islamiyah, was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail for hiding one of the militants convicted in the Bali blasts.
Jemaah Islamiyah wants to install an Islamic state in Indonesia and has an estimated 1,000 members. Indonesia has not made membership in Jemaah Islamiyah a criminal offense.
Analysts say scores of arrests and raids have splintered the group into several cells.