A car bombing at the Philippine ambassador's home here in August 2000 was carried out by the same Jemaah Islamiah militants accused of blowing up two nightclubs in Bali last October, a senior police official said today.
The allegation suggested that Jemaah Islamiah, a regional terrorist network that has been linked to al Qaeda, has been active longer than previously thought. Investigators have asserted that the group was responsible for a series of church bombings in December 2000, but police now say not only that evidence links it to the August blast, which killed two people and seriously injured Ambassador Leonides Caday, but that the attack was ordered in July 2000 by Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, during a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
Hambali, an Indonesian whom authorities describe as Jemaah Islamiah's operational commander, is believed by intelligence officials to be behind the Bali attack and is considered Southeast Asia's most wanted man.
The attack at the Philippine ambassador's home on Jakarta's upscale Embassy Row occurred on Aug. 1, 2000. As Caday was being driven home in his Mercedes sedan for lunch, a red 1983 Suzuki minivan exploded near the gate to the residence, killing a guard and a bystander. The blast destroyed the house and left Caday with two steel braces in his right leg and one in his left.
Erwin Mappaseng, head of the national police criminal investigation department, said the operatives involved in carrying out both the Jakarta and Bali attacks include men named Amrozi, who police say admitted buying the van that exploded in front of the Sari Club in Bali and also bought the minivan that exploded at Caday's house; Dulmatin, suspected of assembling bombs in both attacks; and Mubarok, believed to have distributed the money that financed the Bali attack and to have helped assemble the Jakarta bomb. Another Bali suspect, Ali Imron, was indirectly involved in the Jakarta blast, Mappaseng said.
Mappaseng said the new details emerged during interrogation last week of Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, an Indonesian member of Jemaah Islamiah who is serving a 14-year prison sentence in Manila for explosives possession. Al-Ghozi told Indonesian police he detonated the Jakarta bomb.
Jemaah Islamiah undertook the Jakarta attack, Philippine investigators said, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Philippine Islamic separatist group. In exchange for carrying out an attack on a Philippine government target, Jemaah Islamiah obtained training for its militants from the Moro front, police said.
Analysts said today's police statements not only add to evidence that the two groups are closely linked but also appear to indicate that Jemaah Islamiah was fully operational more than two years before the Bali blasts. It was only after the blasts that most Indonesian officials acknowledged that international terrorists operated here.
"This shows that in 2000, [Jemaah Islamiah] really stopped being a back office for al Qaeda and began to execute its own terror attacks," said Zachary Abuza, an expert on terrorism in Southeast Asia and a professor at Simmons College in Boston.
According to Mappaseng, the Jakarta bombing presaged the Bali bombing on a smaller scale. Amrozi bought the explosives for both attacks at a shop in Surabaya, East Java, the official said. Both attacks involved bombs detonated remotely -- in the Bali case by vibrations from a cell phone, in the Jakarta incident by a device similar to a walkie-talkie.