9:00am

BALI, Indonesia - Indonesian police say a man who has confessed to taking part in the Bali bomb attacks had travelled to Afghanistan, and authorities are trying to determine if he trained there.

Deputy national police spokesman Edward Aritonang told reporters on the resort island that Amrozi, an Indonesian aged about 40, had also been to Malaysia and Thailand.


Indonesia's defence minister said on Friday Amrozi was a member of Jemaah Islamiah, a radical Southeast Asian Islamic group that has been linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. The minister also said al Qaeda was behind the October 12 blasts.


"His admission of going to Thailand, Malaysia and several other places including Afghanistan has become a major question for the police. What was this for?" Aritonang said.


"That is what we are looking at, was Amrozi from a group that trained in Afghanistan?"


Aritonang did not say when Amrozi went to Afghanistan, but militant Muslims from Southeast Asia are believed to have trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan before a U.S.-led campaign ousted the nation's hardline Taleban rulers late last year.


Amrozi owned a minivan that was used as a car-bomb in the Bali attacks that killed more than 180 people, most of them foreign holidaymakers. His arrest this week marked the first big breakthrough in the investigation.


Aritonang said police were questioning a man who sold Amrozi explosives in East Java, although he had not been declared a suspect in the case and the spokesman gave no further details.

The spokesman hinted Amrozi had met Abu Bakar Bashir, alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah. Police have already said Amrozi knew Hambali, an Indonesian identified by intelligence officials as a key Jemaah Islamiah leader.


Asked if Amrozi had met Bashir and Hambali, Aritonang said:


"Those confessions need to be clarified. He talked like that a lot, including about his relationships with other groups."


Bashir is in detention in Jakarta over Christmas Eve church bombings in 2000 in the world's most populous Muslim nation and a plot to kill President Megawati Sukarnoputri. The radical cleric has not been linked to the Bali blasts and denies any wrongdoing. At Amrozi's home village of Tenggulun in East Java province, village chief Maskun told reporters that Bashir had visited an Islamic boarding school there five times. Jafar Sidiq, Amrozi's older brother, said Bashir had visited twice.


Sidiq also said Amrozi had worked in Malaysia, returning in 1998. It was unclear when he first went there.


Sidiq denied his brother was involved in the Bali bombings, saying he spent most of his time in Tenggulun, three hours drive from the provincial capital Surabaya.


"From day to day he was at home, fixing motorbikes and making antennas for handphones," said Sidiq, adding Amrozi's wife and a younger brother of the suspect had since fled.


Police have said the perpetrators used hand phones to detonate the car bomb, the most deadly of the three almost simultaneous blasts in Bali.


Citing information from Amrozi, police have said the attack were aimed at killing as many Americans as possible. They have said up to 10 people were involved.


Police have said they knew the bombers' names, including the chief architect, and were searching for them across Indonesia.


No one has claimed responsibility, but suspicion has been focused on al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah.


Prior to the attacks, Jakarta was criticised by officials in some countries for not doing enough to crack down on terror.


Jemaah Islamiah is thought to be seeking a pan-Islamic "super state" across Southeast Asia.


Amrozi is the first suspect named over the Bali blasts.


Police have released four sketches of suspects and say Amrozi resembles one. Of the four sketches, three are of Indonesians.

- REUTERS


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