Zubaydah's representatives would arrive with contacts drawn from Afghan war alumni, refresh ties with old friends, and identify local groups that showed the most ideological and operational promise. Mr. Faruq told his interrogators that when he came to Indonesia he worked closely with Al Haramayne, a Saudi charity the State Department alleges has served as an occasional front for Al Qaeda.
"Part of the MO [modus operandi] is to actually engage in some charitable work,'' says Lee Wolosky, a lawyer who tracked terrorist financing for the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. "One of the reasons was to provide cover to operatives, and another was to make friends.
Sometimes the operative would strengthen bonds by marrying into a local militant family, as Faruq did in Indonesia; his father-in-law, Fadillah, was a militia leader. And operatives didn't always work alone - others were often brought in to train potential militants and offer them aid.
The pattern is one experts expect Al Qaeda will follow again. "Al Qaeda is opportunistic; they look to take advantage of local grievances to convince Muslims to join their larger struggle," says Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert. "They thrive in lawless environments."
For Al Qaeda's strategists in Afghanistan, conditions in Indonesia after the 1998 collapse of the Suharto regime were like the ringing of a dinner bell. Not only had the political climate changed, but communal conflicts and local militias were mushrooming.
Faruq was the man Zubaydah turned to take advantage of these conditions, according to a summary of a Faruq interrogation conducted by the US and seen by the Monitor. Faruq told his interrogators he was trained in 1991 and 1992 in tactics and explosives at Al Qaeda's Camp Khalden in Afghanistan, and had been coming to Southeast Asia since the mid-1990s.
His original role was as a liaison to armed Muslim groups in the largely Muslim southern Philippines. But after the fall of Suharto, Faruq shifted his focus to Indonesia, where he quickly zeroed in on the religious war brewing on Ambon, the capital of the archipelagic Maluku province.