Hambali: Mastermind of Terror
Although key evidence linked JI and al Qaeda to the attacks on 9/11, little was done to track down the perpetrators as the United States was hampered in its investigations by what some commentators see as its poor "working relationship" with both the Malaysian and Indonesian governments. This state of affairs is attributed to the fact that both are Islamic governments with a poor history of enforcement against terrorists, particularly JI. Also both governments have never seen eye to eye with U.S. policies in the past and were openly opposed to the Gulf War. In addition, Indonesia has always vehemently denied that any al Qaeda element exists in or near its country, long after U.S. intelligence agencies had proved otherwise.
It wasn't until October 2002, when terrorists bombed a Bali nightclub in the middle of a popular tourist district that world pressure caused the Indonesian government to find those responsible.
Within hours of the Bali attack local police knew it was the work of JI. They learned the attack was meant for vacationing American tourists but instead more than 200 innocent people, mostly Australians, were ripped apart, maimed or burned beyond recognition when dual explosions tore apart the Sari Club, a popular Kuta Beach nightspot.
Even as Indonesian officials started the investigation, they knew it was the work of Hambali. The synchronized attack pattern, the depth of organization and the massive amounts of ammonium nitrate explosives all pointed to the work of al Qaeda-trained bombers. They also knew that Hambali wouldn't just stand around waiting to be captured: He would be far away gloating over his success.
With Hambali gone to ground and Bashir still in the open publicly calling for jihad, police quickly targeted the JI leader and took him into custody. Without proof they didn't try to charge him with complicity in the Bali attack, but rather charged him with orchestrating the spate of Malaysian church bombings two years before.
They also had information confirming that the 2000 Christian church bombings were arranged by Hambali. This was later confirmed when Time Asia conducted a series of interviews and learned that Hambali not only supplied the cash, equipment and bomb makers, he also personally picked the targets and supervised the training of the bombers.
As the investigation unfolded it was revealed that the Bali nightclub was just one of many targets on JI's books. In fact, up to 21 tons of ammonium nitrate had been stockpiled in various locations for future use.
While the depth of the relationship between al Qaeda and Hambali is not clear, the media has been quick to portray him as the al Qaeda's leading man in Malaysia and some have even suggested that he is "in charge" of the entire Southeast Asian region.