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SITE Publications
Terrorist Mastermind Hambali Arrested--Fact Sheet
By SITE Institute
Published in: SITE Institute
August 14, 2003

Background Hambali was born Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin in April 1964 to a poor family in West Java, Indonesia. In 1985, Hambali sought exile in Malaysia from political persecution along with a group of radical, young Muslims with whom he had recently become involved. At that time, Hambali was a member of the group known as Pertubuhan Darul Islam (PDI), from which Jemaah Islamiyya (JI) later emerged. Soon after, in 1987, Hambali left Malaysia for the Sadar Camp in Pakistan for arms training and subsequently was caught up in the Jihad in Afghanistan, fighting against the Soviets between 1987 and 1989. After the war subsided, he returned to Malaysia in 1990 and began recruiting young Muslims to join Jihad with the goal of forming a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia. Hambali, along with Abu Jibril and Abu Bakar Bashir, are key figures in the core JI leadership. Terrorist Ties • Hambali allegedly hosted the Malaysian meeting of al-Qaeda leaders in January 2000 when the September 11 plot and U.S.S. Cole bombings were discussed. Reportedly in attendance along with Hambali were two of the 9-11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, and the 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. • Hambali coordinated what has been called the first JI terrorist attack. In December 2000, several churches in Indonesia were bombed simultaneously on Christmas Eve. According to a Philippine investigation, JI operative Fathur Al-Ghozi was responsible for the bombing and confessed that the bombing was funded by JI. • Hambali was one of the co-founders of Konsojaya, an import-export company based in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, importing goods such as Sudanese honey and exporting palm oil to Afghanistan. The other founder of the company was Wali Khan Amin Shah, an al-Qaeda operative who was convicted in the United States for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Founded in 1994, Konsojaya was primarily funded by al-Qaeda official Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. • Investigators discovered that phone calls were made to Konsojaya by Mohammed Jamal Khalifah, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, who is alleged by law enforcement to have financed the 1995 “Bojinka” plot to blow up a dozen U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean simultaneously. The company was an alleged front to help finance terror operations in Southeast Asia, including the “Bojinka” plot. Hambali reportedly gave the go ahead for the Bojinka plot to begin, putting into motion Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s al-Qaeda terror cell in Manila, Philippines, headed by his nephew Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind and bomb expert behind the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. • Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a Canadian citizen who was an al-Qaeda operative in Southeast Asia, was originally tasked to participate in a terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Singapore. Jabarah, who was arrested in March 2002, was in contact with Hambali in January 2002 in Thailand, according to Jabarah’s interrogation by U.S. officials. Hambali discussed with Jabarah potential plots of carrying out smaller attacks than those previously planned. Hambali encouraged planning attacks on soft targets such as bars, cafes, and nightclubs. Hambali preferred those targets because they were often frequented by Westerners traveling in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia. • Jabarah disclosed that Hambali had briefed him in Karachi, Pakistan, for plans to carry out strikes in the Philippines. Though several JI members were arrested before the date of the planned attacks on the Philippines, the plan was not derailed immediately. On December 13, 2001, Hambali met with several Singapore and Malaysian JI members in an effort to convince them that the attacks could and still needed to be carried out. He stressed the importance of the attacks in light of the recent arrests. Plans to purchase 6 tons of TNT persisted, and the plan was only thwarted when an operative, Fathur Rohman, was arrested in January 2002. • Despite the abandonment of the Philippine plan, another plot had been hatched as well: to attack a shuttle bus service for American personnel in the Sembawang area. The target was the Yishun Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station. A reconnaissance video was created to plan the attack. In 1999, Hambali instructed an individual named Faiz to travel to Afghanistan to show the videotape of the Yishun MRT station reconnaissance, to Al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef (Abu Hafs), one of bin Laden’s lieutenants, who was killed after September 11, 2001, in Afghanistan by coalition forces. The videotape of the Yishun MRT station target was later discovered in the home of Atef in Afghanistan following U.S. counterstrikes. • Hambali controlled the disbursements of a fund established by Jemaah Islamiyya to funnel money to Jihad activities. According to a report titled “The Jemaah Islamiyah Arrests and the Threat of Terrorism” by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Singapore, Jemaah Islamiyya-run businesses were required to give 10% of their total earnings to a Jihad fund, “Infaq Fisabilillah.” Funds held within “Infaq Fisabilillah” were then utilized for training, transport, and weapons purchases. • Hambali is alleged to have participated in the 2000 murder of Malaysian Parliament member Joe Fernandez. • Hambali was branded on January 24, 2003 as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity by Executive Order 13224.

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