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Homeland Security

14 August 2003

Bush Announces Capture of Major Southeast Asia Terrorist Suspect

Administration officials stress significance of Hambali's arrest

By Wendy Ross
Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington -- A chief suspect in major terrorist operations in Southeast Asia has been captured, President Bush announced August 14.

"In the last few days, we captured a major terrorist named Hambali," Bush told U.S. military personnel and their families in an event at a Marine Corps air station in California.

"He's a known killer. He was a close associate of September 11th mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Hambali was one of the world's most lethal terrorists, who is suspected of planning major terrorist operations, including that which occurred in Bali, Indonesia, and other recent attacks."

Hambali is also known as Ryuduan bin Isomuddin, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One as they flew with President Bush from Texas to his California speaking engagements.

"He is now in custody of the United States government. Hambali was al Qaeda's chief representative and senior planner in Southeast Asia. He was operational chief of Jemaah Islamiya, the violent Islamic extremist group based in Indonesia. Hambali's capture is another important victory in the global war on terrorism and a significant blow to the enemy," McClellan said.

Also briefing reporters was a senior administration official who called Hambali "one of the world's most lethal terrorists." His capture, the official said, "is a significant victory in the global war on terrorism and a devastating blow to the enemy. He was one of the few remaining senior planners of al Qaeda and their most important link to terrorist groups in Southeast Asia."

The 39-year old Hambali, the official said, "was al Qaeda's chief representative in Southeast Asia and operational chief of Jemaah Islamiya. His lengthy terrorist credentials include the Bali nightclub bombings in October, 2002, that killed nearly 200 people " as well as "a deadly series of church bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines in December 2000. He's a leading suspect in the bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta earlier this month."

Hambali, the senior administration official said, "is a close associate of the September 11th mastermind, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, KSM."

Hambali, the official said, "facilitated the January 2000 meeting in Malaysia that included two of the September 11th hijackers."

According to information from a senior al Qaeda detainee and corroborated by other sources, the senior official said, shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks Hambali was recruited to find more pilots for additional hijackings in the U.S., and earlier this year he received a large sum of money from an al Qaeda representative in Pakistan for a major attack.

The official said Hambali was captured in Southeast Asia earlier this week by a joint operation and is currently in U.S. custody in an undisclosed place.

Bush was informed of the capture the morning of August 13 by videoconference with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet during the president's daily intelligence briefing.

The official said the White House was announcing the capture instead of the CIA or the Justice Department, as is the typical practice, "because of the significance of his capture."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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