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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tracking down Azahari

Eddie Chua (sun2surf)

KUALA LUMPUR: Hunting down Dr Azahari Husin, a.k.a Demolition Man was like an intelligence chess game.

The top bomb maker of the Jemaah Islamiah terror group was always one step ahead of the police in his three years on the run since the 2002 Bali bombing.

How police finally tracked him down to a villa in the foothill of Batu, a hill town resort, in Malang, 720km east of Jakarta, on Wednesday was the result of a combination of old book and sophisticated intelligence gathering.

But Indonesian police failed to keep the mastermind alive to tell the elaborate secret of the sophisticated clandestine JI network and its tentacles.

A regional intelligence source, who had been involved in pursing Azahari since the Bali bombing, told theSun the capture of Rois, a.k.a. Iwan Dar manwan (right), Azahari's trusted lieutenant in November last year was a turning point in the hunt for the fugitive who had given police the slip thrice.

"He revealed Azahari's and JI's secret communication code within the cell and other coded systems used to avoid detection or capture," said the source.

Rois, the field coordinator of last year's Australian Embassy bombing in Jakarta that left 11 people dead, including a suicide bomber, gave enough information to gain an insight into the elaborate e-mail links and call-signs over cyberspace.

The source said a list of telephone numbers provided by Rois had helped police to eavesdrop on the suspected JI members' conversations over the months.

The eavesdropping was possible because of the Echelon network of spy satellites which taps into conversations worldwide. The system is run by the Australian Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), the country's national authority for signals intelligence and information security. It has a listening post in Singapore.

DSD used the electronic fingerprints - based on voice recognition and phone numbers - to track down the suspected JI members.

"By the time Azahari and his gang realised their codes had been broken and quickly switched to using messengers to deliver their messages across Java, it was too late," said the source. "Investigators were already on some of the JI members' trail."

The source said Indonesia's elite anti-terror squad Detachment 88 which was investigating the last Bali bombing, got wind of Azahari's whereabouts when they captured a JI suspect who was identified as Muji on Tuesday while he was travelling in a bus headed for Semarang in central Java.
On Wednesday afternoon, barely 24 hours after Muji's arrest, police assembled members of Detachment 88 and Brimob, a special police troop, to sur round a villa at Songgokerto, Kota Batu.

They ordered the occupants to surrender but a gunbattle ensued.

Azahari and his gang lobbed grenades at the police and fired shots with AK-47 and M 16 rifles at the raiding team.

The gunfight lasted more than two hours.

A large explosion was heard at 3.30pm, half an hour after the first shots were fired. Two more explosions were heard.

When the gunfire stopped at 5.30pm, police found Azahari and another suspected JI member dead.



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