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Terror network growing in Asia, Australia

From CNN's Maria Ressa

As investigators sift through the wreckage in Bali, experts warn it could only be a matter of time before further attacks
As investigators sift through the wreckage in Bali, experts warn it could only be a matter of time before further attacks

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CNN's Atika Shubert reports on Indonesia's new anti-terror laws in the wake of the Bali bombings. (October 21)
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Authorities gather clues from the deadly bombings in Bali as mourners seek consolation. CNN's Tom Mintier reports. (October 20)
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Australians hold a day of mourning for those killed in the Bali nightclub bombing. CNN's Gaven Morris reports. (October 20)
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Indonesian religious leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir tells CNN's Maria Ressa that the war on terror is a plot to destroy Islam (October 18)
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SINGAPORE (CNN) -- Intelligence officials say that Jemaah Islamiya -- a militant Islamic group suspected of having links to the bombings in Bali as well as recent attacks in the Philippines -- appears to have set up networks throughout Southeast Asia and Australia.

Though the man alleged to be the group's spiritual leader, radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, has been arrested by Indonesian authorities, intelligence officials say a threat from the group still remains.

The officials tell CNN they believe Ba'asyir's deputy and operations chief Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, is still directing operatives across the region from Indonesia.

Singapore intelligence says Hambali is a long-time al Qaeda member who sits on the shura or consultative council of both al Qaeda and its regional network, the Jemaah Islamiya (JI).

"The Jemaah Islamiya network is more or less the al Qaeda cell in Southeast Asia," Southeast Asian analysts Zachary Abuza says.

Regional cells

Regional intelligence documents obtained by CNN show operational cells, known as mantiqis, have carved out the region:

  • Mantiqi 1 covers Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
  • Mantiqi 2 covers most of Indonesia.
  • Mantiqi 3 is the Philippines, Brunei, east Malaysia and Kalimantan and Sulawesi in Indonesia.
  • Mantiqi 4 operates in Australia and West Papua.
  • However, sources say it is unclear whether the JI cells thought to have been set up inside Australia itself are for logistical support or if they are operational.

    Intelligence sources say they believe the nightclub involved in the Bali bombings was chosen because of the predominance of Australians among its clientele. (Full story)

    Although he has been placed under arrest, Ba'asyir has not been linked to the Bali blasts, despite authorities' suspicions that his group is linked to the attack.

    Hybrid groups

    Intelligence officials say that three key al Qaeda operatives, working with JI, infiltrated and co-opted homegrown Muslim groups, like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines or Laskar Jundullah in Indonesia.

    "They are plugging into the different extremist organizations in each country which may have its own agenda, but at the same time, they can work together to perpetrate these attacks," Concepcion Clamor from the Philippine National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) says.

    Regional intelligence sources tell CNN that these hybrid groups account for at least 12 tons of explosives missing in the region -- 4 tons from Malaysia, 4.6 tons in the Philippines and at least 4 tons from Indonesia.

    U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN a Saudi sheikh -- a pseudonym used by Osama Bin Laden -- wired $74,000 to Ba'asyir to purchase several tons of explosives.

    "It is very likely that a portion of that explosives was used to construct the device and the devices that were detonated in Bali," terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna says.

    Security experts say governments in the region need to work closely together to dismantle this existing network and find the missing explosives.

    If they delay, analysts warn, it will only be a matter of time before the next attack takes place.

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