KUALA LUMPUR: Jemaah Islamiah (JI) has a house in Pakistan where students from Malaysia and Singapore are indoctrinated and prepared for militant activities.
Gungun Rusman Gunawan, a brother of Ridwan Ishamuddin (better known as Hambali, a key man in al-Qaeda's operations in South-East Asia who was captured in Thailand in August 2003) revealed this in his confession to the Indonesian police last year.
A source disclosed the contents of the confession to The Star recently.
Gungun and 18 others, including 13 Malaysians, were picked up by the Pakistan Federal Agency and the United States Central Intelligence Agency in Karachi in September 2003 for suspected militant activities.
The arrests were based on information gleaned from US interrogations of Hambali, who had been under US custody at a secret location after his capture.
Gungun: Said the students in Pakistan were closely knit and met weekly in the home.The Malaysians, pursuing religious courses in Karachi universities, were arrested under the Internal Security Act after they were deported. Eight were released after being questioned by police.
Gungun, who was deported to Indonesia after his arrest, is now serving a four-year jail sentence in his homeland for helping to finance the Jakarta J.W. Marriott hotel bombing.
In his confession, Gungun said Malaysians who made frequent visits to the house after completing their studies in Pakistan would be persuaded to undergo a military stint in Afghanistan.
He told police that he was ordered to set up the house by Abdul Rahim, the youngest son of jailed Indonesian Muslim leader Abubakar Ba'asyir - who has been accused of heading the JI network in Indonesia.
The house was set up at Johar Square, Karachi, in 2000. Kompak (an Indonesian militant group allegedly involved in a series of bomb blasts in the Poso region as well as in the Muslim-Christian conflicts in the Moluccas) paid for its rental.
The confession did not specify if the house still exists or how many Malaysians had gone to Afghanistan after the Pakistani authorities and the CIA arrested Gungun and the 18 others.
Gungun revealed that recruits for the Afghan military stint had to undergo a 40-day tadrib (military training) before they were introduced to light weaponry for 20 days.
“They were exposed to the theory and handling of AK-47 assault rifles and Pulemyot Kalashnikov general purpose machine guns.
“They were also introduced to RPG (rocket propelled grenade) guns, M-16 rifles and a wide range of pistols.” Gungun, a former student of the Abu Bakar Islamic University, said the recruits were also taught how to read the compass and maps and use explosives like Molotov bombs, grenades, anti-tank mines and TNT.
He added that Malaysian and Indonesian students in Pakistan were closely knit and met weekly at the home. “The brotherhood also saw them forming a study group called al-Ghuraba under Abdul Rahim’s tutelage.” , according to the source, the authorities are concerned that the so-called study group could be part of a JI sleeper cell that could be activated any time.
“Based on Gungun’s evidence, the police in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are working together to identify those who had been to the house,” said the source. In July last year the Pakistani government deported hundreds of foreign students, including some 200 Malaysians, in a move to curb militancy in the country.
This followed their finding that two out of four Pakistan-origin terror suspects involved in the London bombings on July 7 had studied at the same madrasah (religious community school). The Pakistani move had also put the Malaysian authorities on a similar alert. “The Malaysian police would be keeping an eye on local students who return home as a precautionary measure,” said the source.
EDDIE CHUA, The Star Malaysia
Thursday February 2, 2006