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How Al Qaeda lit the Bali fuse: Part one

Nightclub bombings grew out of a network forged by marriage, training, and aid

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Mira Agustina was surprised to get the call at the Islamic boarding school where she had been cloistered since she turned 18. "Come home,'' her father said."There's someone who wants to marry you."

Ms. Agustina slipped on the black, tentlike dress her father, Haris Fadillah, had taught her to wear in public; packed a small bag; and left on the 12-hour bus ride to Cijambu, West Java. Arriving early the next morning, she was introduced to Mohammed Assegof, a young man with Arab features. Ms. Agustina, then 21, married him that day.

Mr. Fadillah never explained why he was uniting his daughter to this stranger. But "my father must have trusted my husband completely,'' Agustina said in an April interview, as she played with her toddler in the sparsely furnished family home here. "Otherwise, he wouldn't have allowed him to marry me."

US and Indonesian investigators agree. Her marriage in July 1999, they say, helped cement an alliance between Indonesian militants and Al Qaeda that culminated in the October 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists dancing at a nightclub.

The trials of two of the men implicated in those bombings got under way last month in Bali. A third - of Mukhlas, the man alleged to be the operations chief of the terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) - began Monday.

The prosecution in those cases is focused on the narrow details of how the Bali attacks were carried out. What they do not tell is the larger story of Al Qaeda's entry to Indonesia.

That tale reveals a pattern the organization mastered in the 1990s: patiently tracing an arc of opportunistic expansion from Somalia to Afghanistan to the southern Philippines and thriving on weak law enforcement, corruption, and local Islamic militias ripe to be transformed into members of a borderless terror group.

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