Hambali’s mum-in-law: All I want is to see my daughter

BELURAN (Sabah): Sitting on the verandah of a friend’s house in the fishing village of Keramat Dua here, Salmah Abdullah broke down in tears upon hearing the name of her daughter mentioned over the 8pm TV news on Monday. 

It was the Deputy Prime Minister on the air announcing that her daughter Noraliza Abdullah @ Lee Yin Len, arrested with her husband Hambali in Thailand last week, was being detained under the Internal Security Act. 

Many questions cloud the mind of this 67-year-old farmer living in a dilapidated wooden stilt house at the Labuk rivermouth on the east coast of Sabah, 300km from Kota Kinabalu. 

Noraliza:Hambali's wife in an undated picture with her niece.

Known as Saloma among fellow villagers, she had been secretive about her daughter all this time as she did not want the kampung folk to talk about her family. 

“I try to take my mind off family problems by joking and helping relatives make cakes,” she said, adding that she cried nightly, unable to eat and sleep comfortably since she heard news of the arrests. 

“I have not been staying home. I have been putting up at my children and relatives’ homes,” she said, still trying to figure out how her two daughters ended up marrying international terror suspects linked to Osama bin Laden. 

Salmah thinks it all started15 years ago. 

Sometime in the late 1980s a group of preachers visited their poverty-stricken village of about 70 families.  

“They said they were from a religious school in Johor and were giving scholarships for further studies,” said Salmah. 

She is certain that Noraliza, who was looking for an opportunity to further her studies, took up the offer and went to the peninsula. 

How or when Noraliza met Hambali is unclear to Salmah who said: “I think they must have met in Johor.” 

“I also did not know when Noraliza married Hambali until they visited us in Beluran five years after she went to Johor. It may have been in 1994 or 1995.  

“Then they went to Sandakan,” said Salmah, who said she was illiterate and could not remember exact dates. 

She was also unable to tell when her eldest daughter Noral Fadila Lee @ Lee Ah Lin ended up as the wife of another JI suspect, Abu Yusof @ Dandang Surman, who is on the run following the global crackdown on terrorism. 

The two were among five children Salmah had with Penang-born contractor Lee Song Koi, who was her third husband. She had four other children from her previous marriages.  

According to Salmah, Lee died in Penang in 1996 several years after returning to the peninsula. She converted to Islam seven years ago after her children professed the faith. 

Salmah said she lived with Hambali and Noraliza for three years in Banting. 

She said Noraliza did not have any children because Hambali had had an operation and was unable to give her a grandchild. 

“He told me that if my daughter wanted a child, she could marry again,” said Salmah, adding that Noraliza told her she would remain with Hambali. 

All she wants now is help for her to travel to Kuala Lumpur to see Noraliza. 

“I hope Noraliza can come and stay with me. I don’t want to go to Indonesia like her sister. I don’t want her to stay with Hambali’s family,” she said.  

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