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Police: Bali mastermind escapes raid DENPASAR - Alleged Bali bombing mastermind Noordin Mohamed Top narrowly escaped capture Friday after he fled a remote village hours before a pre-dawn raid by anti-terror police on his hideout, police said. Noordin and his close aide Azahari bin Husin are two of Southeast Asia's most wanted men and believed to be key members of the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah -- the group suspected in last weekend's suicide bombings on Bali island.

The two Malaysians have kept one step ahead of a massive manhunt for years, moving constantly in densely populated areas of the sprawling nation made up of 220 million people and more than 10,000 islands. Police stepped up their hunt after the bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 22 people, including the three bombers, and wounded more than 100.

Acting on a tip, about 20 officers moved in on a house in Purwantoro, a district in central Java province, at around 4 a.m., only to learn that Noordin had fled nearly three hours earlier, said Abdul Madjid, a police chief in the city of Solo. "We can confirm it was him," said Madjid, adding that police had been forced to delay the raid by several hours because they were worried he was armed with explosives. By the time reinforcements arrived "it was too late."

Police have claimed several times in the last few years to have narrowly captured the Malaysian fugitives, most recently in the West Javanese city of Bandung almost exactly two years ago. There was no way to confirm if the man who escaped Friday was in fact Noordin. "The people living there did not know it was him," said Madjid, adding that the suspect had shaved his mustache.

Investigators appeared to be making headway Friday in their investigation into the suicide bombings on three crowded cafes on Bali. Maj. Gen. Chairul Rasyid, central Java's police chief, said investigators were close to identifying two of the three suicide bombers involved in the Bali attacks, and revealed that the wife of a top terror suspect made phone calls to the island days before the strike.

Authorities also said 12 al Qaeda linked Jemaah Islamiyah militants arrested two months before the bombings told police that the network was plotting a terrorist attack in Indonesia, said top anti-terror official Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai said.



Posted in Terrorism @ 08 October 2005 10:59 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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