The Fire This Time

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In attacking what the intelligence world calls a "hardened" target, the bombers probably knew they would not cause the deaths of many foreigners but that many Indonesians might be killed or wounded, says Sidney Jones, Asia director of the International Crisis Group (ICG) and an expert on J.I. "They knew there would be Indonesian victims, but they didn't care. They only cared about the symbolic value of being able to say, we're still here, we can still do this even with a huge manhunt going on for our two most wanted bombmakers." Those two bombmakers are allegedly Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Mohammed Top, Malaysians whom Indonesian police suspect of masterminding last week's blast. The jailed plotters of the Bali bombings have also told police that the two were instrumental in planning and executing that attack.

Although Indonesian authorities want Azahari and Noordin for complicity in the Marriott blast, only recently has the critical nature of their alleged roles been revealed by evidence given during police interrogations of other suspected terrorists. According to transcripts of the interrogations of those held for the Marriott attack, which have been translated by ICG and seen by TIME, Noordin was chief strategist of the Marriott attack while Azahari played the role of operational commander, recruiting the suicide bomber and training other participants in bomb construction. A chilling insight into Azahari's cool shepherding of less seasoned accomplices during the operation is given by one of his chief accomplices, a former auto mechanic now under arrest for his own suspected role in the Marriott bombing. According to the transcripts, Azahari's accomplice told his interrogators that he and Azahari filled a minivan with explosives with the help of Asmar Latin Sani, the 28-year-old who was to detonate the bomb. Azahari himself drove the Toyota to a nearby mosque on the day of the bombing, his accomplice told police. After a brief final prayer, Asmar changed places with Azahari, who climbed onto the back of a motorcycle driven by the accomplice. "The motorcycle went first, followed by Asmar driving the truck," the accomplice told police. "About 200 meters before the hotel, Asmar pulled out in front and proceeded toward the lobby, while Azahari and I turned around and headed toward the Carrefour supermarket. Shortly afterward, we heard a big explosion, and I said, 'Allahuakbar'"—God is great.

For now, the police are focused on capturing Azahari and Noordin, intensifying a nationwide manhunt that they say has seen the two men slip away from arrest with minutes to spare no fewer than four times. The continued threat the pair pose was underlined by Suyitno Landung, head of Indonesia's criminal-investigation department, who told reporters that Azahari had recruited suicide bombers after the Marriott bombing. Six were arrested, and they confessed to police that three others were still at large; two of them, said Landung, might have been last week's bombers.

With more than 200 of its members arrested since the Bali blasts, its access to money disrupted and many of its alleged leaders in jail, J.I. may be badly wounded. But it is still alive. "There are still a number of J.I. leaders out there who have the international contacts, charisma and tactical skills to organize this sort of attack," says Jones. Perhaps the most effective weapon against the terrorists may eventually prove to be public opinion. Although the Bali bombings met with a muted response in Indonesia, the widely televised death and suffering caused by the attacks on the Marriott and the Australian embassy have enraged ordinary people. "No Muslim person should ever call himself a Muslim if he is capable of doing something like this," says the motorbike taxi driver Eri. "Enough is enough. These people must be stopped."

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