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Jailed militant says Bashir never spoke to him of plotting attacks

A Malaysian Muslim militant jailed in Indonesia said on Tuesday that alleged former regional terror chief Abu Bakar Bashir never spoke of plans to attack Western interests during encounters with him. Syamsul Bahri, testifying in Bashir’s terrorism trial, said he was told by another militant that Bashir had succeeded Abdullah Sungkar as the leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah extremist group but was not aware of his inauguration. “I’ve never heard of bombing plans from ustadz (teacher) or talk of that sort. There were only religious messages,” Bahri, a 27-year-old British-trained engineer, told the court. Bahri said he met Bashir on three occassions – in Pakistan when he was studying Islam, in Malaysia and in Indonesia. Bashir denied he met Bahri in Pakistan. A Jakarta court jailed Bahri for three years in July for attending Jemaah Islamiyah meetings last year to plan terror attacks in Indonesia. Bashir, an Islamic cleric, is accused of inciting followers to carry out the October 2002 Bali nightclub bombings in which 202 people died and of plotting last year’s attack on the Jakarta Marriott hotel in which 12 were killed. If found guilty he could face a death sentence. Foreign governments say Bashir led the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, which is blamed for the Bali and Marriott blasts, for a suicide bombing outside the Australian embassy in September and for a string of other attacks. An Indonesian court last year cleared the cleric of leading the group, which seeks to create an Islamic fundamentalist state in Southeast Asia. But police say they have new evidence of his leadership role. Full Story

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