As Abdullah contradicted Norian Mai by stating that Malaysian police were not involved in the operations to arrest Hambali, a proper clarification from the government is in order as to whether Malaysian police intelligence had led to the end of Asia’s biggest terrorist manhunt
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): Yesterday, the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, claimed that intelligence which Malaysian police shared with their counterparts in neighbouring countries had led to the arrest of Osama bin Laden’s top man in Asia, Hambali in Thailand on Tuesday.
However, this had been contradicted by the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his comment in Kepala Batas yesterday where he said that “Malaysian police were not involved in the operations to arrest Hambali”. (Star p.4)
In view of the contradictory accounts by the Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Home Minister and the Inspector General of Police on the Malaysian police’s role in the arrest of al Qaeda’s top man in Asia and operations chief of Southeast Asia’s militant Jemaah Islamiah (JI) network who was allegedly preparing to stage an attack in Bangkok during the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders’ summit in October, a proper clarification from the government is in order.
If the Malaysian police had played a role in the capture of Hambali by sharing its intelligence with their counterparts in neighbouring countries, Malaysians are entitled to know why Abdullah was misled to give wrong information and why he had not been given a proper briefing on the matter by the Inspector-General of Police.
This is further reason why the government should table a White Paper in Parliament next month on al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiah and Hambali and the latest situation report in Malaysia’s war on international terror.
The government should disclose as much information as it could to Members of Parliament and the nation in the White Paper to take the people into its confidence on the latest position in the war against terror, in particular the nature of the intelligence reports which Malaysian police had shared with neighbouring countries leading to Hambali’s arrest.
Foreign media reports have attributed the end of Asia’s biggest terrorist manhunt and the arrest of one of the most senior and most active operatives of al Qaeda in Ayutthaya, 45 miles north of Bangkok, to an ill-considered telephone call that Hambali made to a number in Indonesia that was monitored by foreign agents and suspicious neighbours.
While Hambali’s arrest is an important breakthrough in the international war on terror, terrorism experts have cautioned against over-optimism as al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah are not leader-dependent in their operations, pointing out that the arrest of Abu Zubaidah in March last year could not prevent the attack on French submarine engineers and the explosion outside the US Consulate in Karachi; the arrest of Ramzi Binalshibh last September could not prevent the terrorist strikes in Bali and in Mombassa, Kenya; and the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad this March could not prevent the terrorist attacks in Riyadh and Casablanca.
With the capture of fugitive Hambali, two persons believed as most likely candidates to take over the helm of Jemaah Islamiah are firstly, a Malaysian, Azahari bin Husin, who has the reputation of a “master bombmaker” and believed to have masterminded the recent Marriot Hotel bomb blasts in Jakarta anmd designed the bombs that struck the two nightclubs in Bali last October killing 2002, and Zulkarnaen, a Indonesian cleric.
It is almost two full years since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States which have changed the face of international politics with the war on international terror. However, Parliament had never held a special debate on the issue on the war on international terrorism and Malaysia’s role in the past two years – an omission which Parliament should remedy when it reconvenes for the 2004 Budget meeting on Sept. 2, 2003.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman