POLICE: BALI MASTERMIND SUSPECT CONFESSES
INDONESIA'S national police chief said Friday that a ringleader in the Bali blasts that killed nearly 200 people has confessed and admitted involvement in other bombings in the past two years.
``He confessed to the bombings in Batam, Jakarta and Bali,'' said Gen. Da'i Bachtiar, referring to both the Bali nightclub blasts and a series of other bombings.
Imam Samudra, in his early to mid 30s, was arrested on Thursday at the port of Merak as he attempted to flee from Java island.
Bachtiar spoke to reporters after interrogating Samudra Friday at a police station near Merak.
Bachtiar said Samudra was a key planner in the Oct. 12 Bali blasts, adding that the militant ``decided when and where'' to place the bombs.
Earlier in the day, there was confusion over whether Samudra had confessed, with officials saying their comments about it had been misinterpreted. Later, several officials confirmed the confession had been made.
Samudra is said to be a leading member of Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked group seeking to impose a Pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia.
Samudra is the second suspect to be arrested in the case. His arrest could give authorities much-needed clues into the workings of Jemaah Islamiyah, which the United Nations recently placed on its list of terrorist organizations.
In Bali, Gen. I Made Mangku Pastika, who is heading the international investigation on Bali, also confirmed that Samudra had admitted his role in the attacks.
``We have lots of evidence'' against him, he told reporters.
Police say they are confident that eight accomplices believed to have participated in the Bali bombings will be captured soon.
Police said they had detained two of Samudra's guards on Tuesday near his hometown of Serang. The men then led them to Samudra.
Pastika said a third man was also detained. Although all three had visited Bali prior to the attack to survey potential targets, they were not among the 10 individuals believed to have carried out the attack, Pastika said.
Samudra's arrest comes more than two weeks after police arrested an Indonesian named Amrozi, who identified the other suspects and detailed the bombing plot.
Jemaah Islamiyah's alleged operations chief, Riduan Isamuddin - known as Hambali - was also involved in the attack, an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
The organization, described as a loose network of terror cells, is divided into four ``operational zones'' that cover all of Southeast Asia, the official said.
The regions cover Sumatra island, Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand; Java and Bali; Borneo, Sulawesi and the Maluku archipelago; and Papua and northern Australia.
Samudra taught at a religious school in southern Malaysia in the early 1990s run by Hambali and Abu Bakar Bashir, Jemaah Islamiyah's alleged spiritual leader.
So far, police have not named Bashir a suspect in the Bali bombings, but he was arrested after the attack on separate charges of masterminding a string of church bombings in 2000.
A diplomat and an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity that Bashir, too, was involved in the Bali blasts despite the cleric's denials.
About 100 of Bashir's supporters demonstrated outside the United Nations offices in Jakarta Friday to protest his arrest.
Hambali, the operations chief, has been implicated in operations ranging from logistical support for the Sept. 11 hijackers to bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines. His whereabouts remain unknown.
Samudra's family in Serang said earlier this week that he left for Malaysia in 1989 and had no contact with them for a decade until he returned home briefly in mid-2000 with a Malaysian wife.
He stayed for two or three days and arranged for a new identity card before leaving again. It was not immediately clear why he was in the Serang area again on Thursday.
Lindsay Davenport Andre Agassi
"If something special happened all the time, it wouldn't be so special.'' - Agassi, Wimby 2003.