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How Al Qaeda lit the Bali fuse: Part one

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Agustina's husband, arrested by Indonesia almost five months before the attack and now being held without charges by the US, is not directly tied to the Bali bombings. But US and Indonesian investigators say he and a handful of others prepared the ground for such attacks through aggressive propaganda and intensive recruiting. With the Muslim-Christian war in the Maluku provinces as their springboard, they swelled the ranks of local militants in an effort that would yield the worst terror attack since September 11.

The trail from the Maluku war to the Bali bombings provides a lesson in how "nuisance conflicts" can become fodder for future terrorism. Local grievances festered and spiraled into extremism - even in areas where militant Islam would seem to have had little chance of taking root. The phenomenon was underscored last week with the arrest of three Thai Muslims accused of belonging to JI and planning a bombing campaign there. The south of the predominantly Buddhist country is home to a Muslim minority that has long complained of discrimination by the government.

Building the team

While the man Agustina married has at least seven aliases, US officials say his real name is Omar al-Faruq. They allege the 32-year-old Kuwaiti was Al Qaeda's principal relationship manager in Southeast Asia. For four years, he crisscrossed this archipelago, building operational ties between Al Qaeda, JI, and other local militants.

The basic template began with Abu Zubaydah. The Saudi Palestinian and confidant of Osama bin Laden had operated along the Afghan border for more than a decade and risen to lead Al Qaeda's external operations. Literally thousands of young men from dozens of countries had entered Al Qaeda's camps on his recommendation, both during and after the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Among Mr. Zubaydah's many duties was infiltration of Islamic charities. He often dispatched his man with a legitimate charitable cover.

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