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Bin Laden ally's brother torn by accusations

By Anna Coren, CNN
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Insight into Indonesian terror
  • The brother of alleged terrorist Hambali wants him to face trial in Indonesia
  • Hambali is in Guantanamo Bay awaiting trial in the U.S.
  • He was allegedly behind bombings in Indonesia from 2000-2003
  • Brother Kan Kan: I don't believe it 100 percent because Hambali hasn't told it to me directly
  • Indonesia
  • Terrorism
  • Al Qaeda

Cianjur, Indonesia (CNN) -- Along a narrow dirt road lined with tall palm trees sits a little community surrounding a school.

Young children laugh and play in the dusty yard with a couple of basketball hoops. Dark storm clouds build in the distance, not uncommon for this time of the year.

Outside one of the classrooms, a man in a maroon uniform, with a calm and gentle presence, talks softly to a few children who need extra help with their schoolwork.

His name is Kan Kan, a 32-year-old teacher who once attended the madrassa. He grew up next door in the family house, along with his 12 brothers and sisters -- one whom would become Osama bin Laden's right hand man in Asia.

Kan Kan fondly remembers his brother Encep Nurjaman, better known in the West as Hambali.

"Hambali was just like any other kid," he said quietly. "There was no sign of extremism then, no jihad tendency, not like what the media was saying -- there was none of that in him."

Kan Kan last saw his older brother in 1999. That was when Hambali visited his family in Cianjur, West Java.

He said he noticed that Hambali had changed in physical appearance. "He looked fatter and had a beard but his behavior was the same as before."

U.S. authorities, however, say Hambali by that stage had become a very important player in the regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

He had spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan and had become close to Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda operatives. He created a specialized role for himself where he alone was the liaison between JI and al Qaeda.

It is alleged he was behind the major attacks in Indonesia from 2000 to 2003: the Christmas Eve bombing in Jakarta in 2000; the Bali bombings in 2002 that claimed 202 lives -- most of them foreigners; and the 2003 Marriott bombings in the Indonesia capital. Hambali's younger brother Gun Gun was jailed for three years for his role in the Marriott attacks.

Kan Kan said the first he knew about his brother's alleged activities was while watching the news and his picture appeared on television.

"I don't believe it 100 percent because Hambali hasn't told it to me directly," said Kan Kan. "I want to know without doubt from Hambali himself. That's why I'm asking the Indonesian government to bring Hambali back to Indonesia, so he can clear this up."

Hambali was arrested in southern Thailand in a joint Thai police and CIA operation in August 2003.

He was taken to a secret prison and then in 2006 he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he remains a high-value detainee.

The only contact he has had with his family is through a dozen letters sent via the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The letters are mostly written in the Indonesian language of Bahasa, but the most recent delivered in December has a few lines in English.

A photo is attached of a noticeably aged Hambali reading the Quran on a prayer mat. His beard is long and grey, his physical frame much thinner. In the letter, he writes that he weighs 65.5 kilograms (144 pounds).

"I feel sad after seeing the letter," Kan Kan said. "But most of his letter is not complaints, but advice. He normally writes advice for the family. He tells us to remember God, don't forget to pray. His letters are like sermons."

Even if Hambali does complain in his letters, his family would likely never know. Large chunks of the letter are scribbled out in red pen.

Kan Kan said he asked an official from the International Committee of the Red Cross if this was U.S. censorship. He said the Swiss representative who delivered the letter didn't have an answer, but Kan Kan is convinced that is exactly what the paragraphs of red pen are.

Hambali knows his brother is due to face trial in the United States this year. His family has appealed to the Indonesian government to push for his extradition, but Kan Kan admits that would be highly unlikely.

U.S. authorities are yet to announce what charges Hambali will face, but Indonesians also want him to answer for the terrorist attacks on home soil.

"The family really hoped Hambali could be brought back to Indonesia. If he's guilty he can be tried here, because whatever his wrong doings this is his country and he is Indonesian," Kan Kan said protectively. "He has a right to live here, he has a right to legal protection so I really hope he can be brought back here."