Indonesian militant linked to Bali bombings flown to Jakarta for questioning

Indonesian elite anti-terrorism squad Densus 88 personnel escort a terror suspect upon the arrival from Lampung to be transferred to Jakarta, at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia, December 16, 2020. Muhammad Iqbal/Antara Foto via REUTERS

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian authorities on Wednesday transferred 23 Islamic militants to the capital Jakarta for questioning, including one of the suspected bomb makers behind the 2002 attacks on the resort island of Bali.

Zulkarnaen, thought to be one of the seniormost members of Al Qaeda-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiah, was arrested on Sumatra island last week along with 22 others in a series of raids.

After the group's charter plane had landed at Jakarta airport, Zulkarnaen, who was wearing an orange shirt with a sarong, was escorted by anti-terrorism police from the plane.

At a news conference at the airport, national police spokesman Aswin Siregar desribed Zulkarnaen as "a very, very dangerous person" for Indonesia and the world

Zulkarnean is believed to have been involved in making the bombs that were used in the Bali bombings that killed 202 people and the 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people.

Indonesia has been dealing with militant attacks for the past two decades from groups such as Jemaah Islamiah, some of whose members trained in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the southern Philippines.

In the wake of the Bali attacks and with backing from Australia and the United States, Indonesia set up an elite anti-terrorist unit that helped weaken Jemaah Islamiah and resulted in scores of suspected militants being arrested or killed.

But the ability of Zulkarnean to stay hidden for so long raises questions about whether the group has managed to remain a force and potentially regenerate.

Police spokesman Aswin told reporters authorities aimed to track all the networks that helped him evade capture.

(Reporting by Tri Iswanto; Writing by Angie Teo; Editing by Ed Davies)

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