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How Al Qaeda lit the Bali fuse: Part three

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There, Samudra learned the handling of assault rifles, rudimentary bomb construction, and the importance of maintaining secrecy in terrorist operations. Then he went to the front.

He stayed until mid- 1993, when he moved to Johor, Malaysia. The core group of operatives who would coordinate JI's terror attacks (Hambali, Ali Ghufron alias Mukhlas, Jabir, the Malaysian Professor Azahari bin Husin) were spending time here, as were the organization's spiritual leaders.

Samudra was now a made man himself. By 1998, the Suharto dictatorship had fallen, and trained operatives like Samudra were looking for an excuse to use their skills.

The right venue

The Maluku conflict provided it. Some time in 2000, Samudra opened a small training camp for would-be jihaddis in his home province of Banten, not far from Jakarta.

He traveled to Muslim schools and talked about Christian atrocities in Maluku. He showed videos depicting brave fighters protecting Muslim villagers, and urged the young men to take up arms. Samudra also peddled bizarre conspiracy tales: One of his favorites was about a Muslim girl named "Wawa." Samudra would tell listeners that she was raped by a priest as part of a national Christian strategy to impregnate Muslim women with "Christian" babies.

''This world is in the middle of a crusade,'' Samudra said, explaining his position to police interrogators. "After the attempts at 'Muslim cleansing' in (Maluku), it became clear that the people of the cross (Christians) will wipe out Muslims if the Muslims are too tolerant."

In late 2000, he approached Amrozi, the brother of JI leader Mukhlas, and asked if he could obtain explosives for the jihad in Ambon, according to Amrozi's deposition by police.

As a consequence, Amrozi struck up a relationship with a corrupt chemicals dealer in the East Java town of Surabaya. He would be used again for the Bali blast.

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