10/19/2005, 00.00
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The USA to hand over terrorist Hambali to Jakarta

Arrested by the CIA in 2003, he is held to be one of the leaders of the Jemaah Islamiyah and the most high-ranking exponent of Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia. Washington never extradited him, but now the situation in Indonesia appears to have changed.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The United States will hand over terrorist suspect Hambali to Indonesia. Hambali was captured by US Intelligence in 2003; he is held to the "Osama Bin Laden" of Southeast Asia. The decision, which Jakarta greeted with some surprise, was announced last night by Counter-Terrorism Coordinator of the US State Department Henry A, Crumpton. The American official, currently visiting Indonesia, said: "We had a clear gesture to extradite Hambali to his home country." However, he did not elaborate further about when the extradition will take place.

According to Crumpton's statements, the American Secret Services are prepared to share information about the terrorist with their Indonesian counterparts: "We must do it as quickly as possible".

On 11 August 2003, the CIA captured Hambali with the help of the Thai security forces. The suspect was in hiding in Ayyuthaya in Thailand. Since then, Indonesia asked several times to be able to interrogate him directly however Washington always appeared reluctant to give the green light.

The situation appears to be changed now. Crumpton said the USA is satisfied with the development of the anti-terror law planned by Jakarta. "Everything has been very much changed and we are very pleased as well to see how the Indonesian government to quickly respond to these rapid changes by reviewing its law on anti-terrorism," he said.

The 38-year-old integralist preacher, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, was born in West Java; he ranks among the leaders of the terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which is at work in the Philippines and in Indonesia, and he is a veteran of the anti-Soviet Afghanistan war. He is held to be the top exponent of Al-Qaeda in Asia with close links to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the presumed mastermind behind the 11 September attacks, who was captured by the USA. Washington claims he is responsible for organising the meeting in Malaysia in January 2000 between Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmii, two hijackers in the Twin Towers attack

As leader of the JI, he is linked to the Bali massacre in 2002 and the attack on the Marriott hotel in Jakarta in 2003. Hambali is also suspected of being the mastermind behind a series of bomb blasts, most of them targeting churches, which went off simultaneously in nine Indonesian cities in Christmas of 2000, killing eight people.

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