Monday, March 03, 2008

Imam Samudra "Didn't Mean to Kill So Many"

Clesea and Bill Clinton, originally uploaded by ddbsweasel.

Lots of people do what they don't mean to. Bill didn't mean to get caught with an intern. Chelsea didn't mean to sink her mum's political ambitions.

Now, it appears Imam Samudra didn't mean to get himself executed for murdering a lot of people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We didn't mean to kill so many: Bali bomber
By Michael Sheridan
AS our jeep rocked along a jungle track towards the maximum-security prison housing the Bali bombers, we passed a group of bored-looking men in fatigues sitting around outside a hut in the midday heat.

"The firing squad," said defence lawyer Achmad Michdan in a matter-of-fact tone. "They've been here for two months now."

The families and friends of the three prisoners awaiting execution were with us, and they drove past the men, who stared at the convoy of vehicles.

On the prison island south of Java all felt surreal: first the journey on a dilapidated ferry to a penal colony rising out of snake-infested swamps; on to the white walls and silvery barbed wire of the jail, a permit check, a search; then a steel door opened and we went into the room where the condemned men waited for us.

Imam Samudra, 38, was the planner who chose the targets in Bali and organised two suicide bombers to carry out the attacks. He wore a fine blue robe, leading his three young children around by the hand and chatting to his wife and his mother, both veiled.

Ali Ghufron, 48, better known as Mukhlas, was the financier who once met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan while making his own pilgrimage from theologian to jihadist. He sat cross-legged on the floor, lecturing to his friends.

Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, 46, dubbed "the Smiling Bomber", was the village mechanic who bought the explosives and the Mitsubishi van used as a car bomb. He rose from the floor, kissed me on both cheeks and said, "Salaam aleikum (peace be upon you)," with a cheery grin.

There were 202 people – including 88 Australians – killed on the night of Saturday, October 12, 2002, when the crime planned by these men was carried out on the mainly Hindu holiday island of Bali.

The first suicide bomber walked into Paddy's Bar and set off a bomb in the middle of a crowd of customers. The second bomber waited for people to flee into the street, then detonated the Mitsubishi, packed with more than a tonne of explosives, outside the Sari Club. The victims were incinerated or flayed, died of shock or perished later from their burns and injuries.

For Australia, with the 88 dead, it was a national tragedy – the greatest peacetime loss of life in the country's history. And it wasa political and economic calamity for Indonesia, which lost 38 of its citizens, many Muslims among them.

The three men in the room with us were caught, tried, convicted and sentenced to death. They said they had been stripped naked, beaten, given electric shocks and plunged into baths of water to make them talk.

Their lawyers last week won a judicial review of their case, although it is likely to fail. Their only hope after that is for clemency, but President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has hinted that he will not grant it.

Thinking about all this, I had little appetite for the chicken, spicy vegetables and rice we had brought from the mainland, which the bombers and their nearest and dearest were now eating with their hands.

"Are you a Muslim?" Samudra asked in English, coming over to sit on the floor opposite me, a challenging look in his eyes. No, I replied.

"Are you a believer?" he asked. Yes, I said. Well then, he said, he would consent to talk if I truthfully reported all he said.

What of their legal case, I asked. "I am at the mercy of almighty Allah," Samudra replied. "I don't care."

Did he deny the charges? "People called me the mastermind of the Bali bombing," he said. "Maybe right, maybe wrong. My only mission was to help the Muslims."

And then he said something extraordinary. He claimed the bombers never meant to kill so many people. What happened at Paddy's Bar and the Sari Club was "unacceptable", he said.

Had he made the bomb? "No, no, no," he said, shaking his head. "I didn't help to make it, and who made the bomb and when I don't know."

The second explosion was much bigger than they had expected, he said.

The only explanation, he suggested, was that "the CIA or KGB or Mossad" – those familiar bogeymen of the conspiracy theorist – somehow tampered with the bomb.

"It is very possible," he claimed. "I learned about explosives in Afghanistan. As you know, I may be an expert."

The truth may never be known. Investigators believe the bombmaker was a militant named Dulmatin. Police in The Philippines are conducting DNA tests on the body of a man killed in a gunbattle with special forces on January 31, which informants say is Dulmatin.

Samudra's fastidiousness about mass murder did not extend to any remorse. Two months before the bombing, he said, he had studied tourist literature to narrow down the list of targets.

Once on the scene, he said, "I observed Zionists. I knew they were using it (the bar) and then also I know I could spread this, with Australia, with Aussies."

No Israelis were killed in the attack.

His targets, he said, were "anti-Muslims, especially people from the USA, Australia, members of NATO, elements of what people call the alliance because they know it's a Crusader army".

What would he say to the families of his victims? "To Muslim people, I would say pardon – but Muslims only. While the unbelievers – they must be entering into hell. Allah says to all unbelievers this road will bring you to hell."

Samudra denied bin Laden paid for the bombing, saying: "The money came from other people.

"Some try to make a link between al-Qa'ida and us. Now I don't know about this. We are not linked. The only link is faith and teachings."

Mukhlas, who prosecutors say raised the funds, also denied receiving money from bin Laden, saying: "I collected it from supporters in Malaysia and Indonesia."

For Samudra, the bombing was a victorious act – not a suicide mission but a "martyrdom operation" in a war that he says is being fought out on the internet – "the most important way to spread jihad".

Samudra remains extremely dangerous. Police say that while in jail in Bali, he used a smuggled laptop computer to communicate with militants to organise a second suicide attack that killed 20 people in 2005.

"I call you to Islam," he said to me. "Islam is peace. Tomorrow belongs to Islam."

It was almost a relief when Amrozi came over, sat down and squeezed my leg in a friendly manner.

"My smile is my weapon," he said. "It makes my enemies upset. This is a special weapon for jihad."

The talk was broken by guards calling us out. Our time was up. The chicken and rice were gone. The families gathered up their things. Between them, the three condemned men have 13 children.

For relatives of those who died in Bali, a difficult moment is approaching.

"It's about time they were executed," said Sue Cooper, who lost her brother Paul Hussey. "I would pull the trigger myself."

That will not be necessary. If the judicial review fails and the President declines to grant the bombers clemency, the men in fatigues are waiting.