One of Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorism suspects, an Indonesian cleric known as Hambali, helped initiate and finance the devastating Oct. 12 Bali bombing, the chief investigator said Monday.
Police Gen. I Made Mangku Pastika, who heads the Bali probe, said Hambali helped fund the attack on two nightclubs on the island by passing $35,500 to an intermediary, who then gave it to the confessed coordinator of the attack.
It is unclear where the money came from, but Hambali helped organize at least one other bomb plot in Southeast Asia that was financed by Al Qaeda, according to the confession of a captured Al Qaeda operative.
Authorities say Hambali, who has also used the name Riduan Isamuddin, belongs to Al Qaeda and assisted two of the Sept. 11 hijackers before they traveled to the United States in 2001. He is already wanted in Indonesia and three other countries for allegedly instigating dozens of terrorist attacks that claimed more than 40 lives.
Police say the Bali bombing, which killed nearly 200 people and injured 325, was carried out mainly by operatives of Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian terrorist network affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Pastika said the main bomb used in the attack -- a car bomb outside the Sari Club -- was so powerful that it decapitated some victims and blew the vehicle's engine block onto the roof of a building. The blast leveled the nightclub and left a crater in the street 2 feet deep.
Hambali, who is believed to be Jemaah Islamiah's operational commander, attended a February meeting with five other top leaders of the group in Thailand's capital, Bangkok, to plan the Bali bombing, Pastika said. The official identified them as Ali Gufron, alias Mukhlas -- the confessed coordinator, who was arrested after the bombing -- as well as four Malaysians: Wan Min Wan Mat, who was arrested Sept. 27; Noor Din Mohammed Top; Zulkifli Marzuki; and Azahari bin Husin.
At the time of the meeting, Hambali gave Wan Min the money to help finance the attack, and the Malaysian then handed it over to Mukhlas, Pastika said.
A police official involved in the investigation said earlier that radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged leader of Jemaah Islamiah, was one of six people who attended the meeting, but he was not named by Pastika.
Bashir was arrested in October and faces charges for alleged involvement in several other bombings and an alleged plot to assassinate Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. He denies any role in terrorist activities and contends that Jemaah Islamiah does not exist.
Pastika's comments on the Bali investigation came during a meeting of top police officials from Southeast Asian nations that was called to coordinate anti-terrorism activities in the region.