After 18 years on the run, the Indonesian leader who orchestrated the Bali bombings has bared the inner workings of the terrorist organisation, revealing that charity boxes in food stalls and mini-marts helped to fund radical Islamic causes.
Indonesian police now believe there could be up to 6000 active members of Jemaah Islamiah, the al-Qaeda-linked group which planned and executed the devastating 2002 Bali nightclub bombings which killed 202 people.
The group is also held responsible for a string of other bombings in Indonesia.
Investigators have revealed that more than 20,000 charity boxes, placed in food stalls, have been used to fund the shady terror group’s operations.
The boxes have been used to collect cash in 12 regions of Indonesia, across Java and Sumatra, and the food stall owners had no idea the money was going to a terror group.
The arrest in November of Aris Sumarsono, known as Zulkarnaen, has thrown a new spotlight on JI and its contemporary incarnation.
In recent years, analysts had believed JI’s influence and membership had waned and that it no longer remained a potent threat in the region.
A biologist, Zulkarnaen had been on the run and eluded capture since 2002.
He was arrested in East Lampung in Sumatra and is one of 23 JI suspects locked up in the past few weeks by Indonesian counter-terror forces.
Indonesian police have arrested 228 accused terrorists in 2020.
They have released video of Zulkarnaen talking to officers after his arrest and detailing his role in a series of deadly bombings in his homeland.
And he revealed the secret meetings that led up to the decision by JI to bomb two nightclubs in Bali in October 2002, along with how other bombings were planned and executed.
Zulkarnaen told how he was called to a meeting with Hambali, al-Qaeda’s so-called lieutenant in South East Asia, who told him they needed to conduct an attack on foreigners.
The Bali plot was then hatched. The Sari Club and Paddy’s Bar in central Kuta were bombed and 200 innocent people died, along with two suicide bombers. Among the victims were 88 Australians.
Indonesian national police spokesman Argo Yuwono described Zulkarnaen as an architect and mastermind of terrorist bombings and the military leader of JI.
He became the JI operations chief after the arrest of Hambali in Thailand in 2003. Hambali has since been held by the US in Guantanamo Bay.
Zulkarnaen remains in Indonesian police custody and is expected to face a string of charges over multiple bombings across Indonesia.