Skip to comments.Son of Jemaah Islamiah leader denies role
Posted on 12/15/2004 12:17:24 PM PST by knighthawk
ACCUSED of providing long-term liaison between al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the young man with impeccable JI lineage smiled gently and began his long litany of denials and refusals.
Abdul Rohim, the youngest son of accused terrorist cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, denied he had ever met convicted Australian terrorist Jack Roche in Pakistan. He insisted his years in the sprawling Pakistani city of Karachi were spent studying, not working with al-Qaeda.
He told The Australian he did not even recognise the name of the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, let alone serve an apprenticeship under him. Khalid, known as "The Brain", was arrested in Pakistan last year in a blaze of publicity.
"Khalid who?" Abdul Rohim asked, shaking his head.
Sidney Jones, the Southeast Asian bureau chief of the International Crisis Group, said it appeared Abdul Rohim had served JI as an intermediary between Karachi and Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan.
"Kandahar can mean al-Qaeda, it can mean the Taliban, it can mean lots of different things, but he certainly was not playing the innocent role of a teacher in Karachi," she said.
Abdul Rohim denied he had been to Kandahar, saying he had never been to Afghanistan.
His accusers - from the notorious terrorist Hambali's younger brother Gun-Gun Rusman Gunawan, to Roche - allege Abdul Rohim had played an important role in Pakistan between 1999 and 2002.
According to Sally Neighbour's book on JI, In the Shadow of Swords, Roche testified in his Australian trial that Abdul Rohim had been a "go-between between JI and al-Qaeda".
The young Indonesian, he said, had picked him up at Karachi airport and had arranged a meeting with Khalid, also known as Mukhtar.
But Abdul Rohim said: "I never met an Australian, let alone picked one up at the airport. From the airport I only ever picked up my friends from Indonesia and Malaysia." Strolling through the Islamic boarding school his father founded in Ngruki, in Central Java, he said he was a simple religious teacher.
More than 30 accused and convicted JI militants, including some of the Bali bombers, were educated or otherwise have strong links with the school. Yet Abdul Rohim, 26, said the terrorist accusations were a conspiracy to oppress Muslims that had dragged his father into prison and forced him to face the trial that begins again today.
Abdul Rohim first heard the words Jemaah Islamiah in the media around 2002, he said. "I never heard the name Jemaah Islamiah, or had JI in my ears, from the time I was little and living with my father and my family."
Testifying at Bashir's trial last week, Rusman Gunawan referred to a study group called al-Ghuraba in Karachi that both he and Abdul Rohim had led at different times. Now in prison for facilitating terrorism, Hambali's younger brother told the court he had replaced Abdul Rohim as leader of the group. Analysts believe al-Ghuraba, which means The Foreigners in Arabic, was intended to train the next generation of JI leaders.
Abdul Rohim agreed there had been an al-Ghuraba study group in Karachi, but said he and Gunawan had been members at the same time. They had shared a house in Karachi.
"Hambali had heard that I wanted to go to Pakistan to finish my studies, so he wanted his younger brother to be sent there as well."
Eventually, he looked after as many as 16 young Malaysians who had come to Pakistan to study. "Malaysians had heard the son of Abu Bakar Bashir was there. They trusted my father. Then they entrusted their sons to me."