Thursday, August 30, 2001

Malaysian suspect admits role in bombings in Indonesia


JAKARTA: Taufik Abdul Halim, the Malaysian who was arrested for the bombing of a shopping mall here a month ago, has admitted he carried the explosive device but it was not supposed to go off there.

He also denied he was responsible for the bombing of two churches here in July, saying two other Malaysians carried out the act on the eve of Megawati Sukarnoputri's election as Indonesian president.

He said he had no knowledge of the Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia, which he has been linked to and implicated in the bombings.

He said he had gone to Indonesia on his own initiative to be in "solidarity" with Muslims in Malukus who were fighting Christians, something he learned about through Malaysian newspapers and the Internet.

"Only after I was brought to this hospital (following the Atrium Senen shopping complex explosion on Aug 1) that Malaysian police visited me and showed me pictures of people who had been arrested. I don't know them. I also don't know the existence of that Kumpulan," said Taufik from his hospital bed in an exclusive interview with The Star yesterday.

Earlier press reports from Indonesia said he had admitted to both Indonesian and Malaysian police that he belonged to the KMM. Clad in an old T-shirt, the 26-year-old Taufik looked frail but relaxed during the hour-long interview.

He had difficulty hearing and kept cupping his ear to listen to the questions. He smiled often but could not hide his pain. "Too many stitches to count," he said, showing his leg amputated below the knee.

Duni Nirbayati, Taufik's lawyer, was present during the interview while three police detectives stood guard outside his room. "He's a little bit deaf from the explosion," said Nirbayati.

Indonesian police arrested Taufik after he was injured in the explosion. Jakarta police alleged Taufik and three other Malaysians currently on the run were the bombers.

Malaysian authorities said Taufik was also apparently involved with the KMM, several of whose members in Malaysia have been detained under the Internal Security Act.

Recounting the bomb explosion, Taufik said he went to the mall with three other Malaysians.

He was asked to carry "the packet" and waited for instructions from "Abas" on where to bring the bomb. "It was not designed to explode in Senen," he said. But it went off accidentally and seriously injured him and two shoppers.

Asked about Abas, Taufik said Abas was "my friend" who had assigned another friend, whose name he does not know, to produce the bomb.

Taufik illegally entered Indonesia in June last year through the Nunukan area in Kalimantan on Borneo island. From Nunukan, he went to northern Sulawesi with nine other Malaysians before they proceeded to northern Malukus.

"I helped the masyarakat guard their kampung from attacks," Taufik said, referring to the Muslim neighbourhoods in the Malukus.

Taufik said he only began to get to know his fellow Malaysians during the trip, adding that three of them came from Terengganu, two from Selangor, two from Kuala Lumpur, one from Pahang, and one from "northern Malaysia."

Taufik admitted that his group was involved in bombing two Christian churches in Jakarta on July 22, a day before Megawati's election as Indonesia's fifth president, but said he was not involved.

Andreas Harsono is The Star's correspondent in Jakarta

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