Indonesian ex-policeman claims Al-Qaeda link

JAKARTA, Sept 23, 2010 (AFP) - An Indonesian police officer who quit the force to become a terrorist said Thursday he was affiliated to Al-Qaeda and had trained about 170 militants to wage jihad, or "holy war".

Mohammed Sofyan Tsauri, 34, made the confession to reporters as he appeared at a Jakarta court for the start of his trial on terrorism-related charges.

"I'm affiliated with Al-Qaeda and in contact with Abu Sayyaf," he said, referring to Osama bin Laden's network and a Philippines-based Islamist militant outfit.

"I became a terrorist after I quit the police (in 2008)... What I've done isn't an act of terror, it's an obligatory religious activity ordered by God."

Tsauri, alias Abu Ayyash, was arrested earlier this year as part of a sweep of Islamist militants linked to a training camp that was discovered in February in Aceh province.

The camp was under the command of Indonesian terror mastermind Dulmatin, one of the architects of the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people. Dulmatin was killed by police in March.

The former police officer could face the death sentence if convicted of charges including supplying weapons for terrorist acts.

Tsauri said God guided him to meet Dulmatin in 2008 and join his effort to set up a new terrorist network in Aceh province, the most devoutly Islamic part of the mainly Muslim archipelago.

His activities included recruiting former rebels from Aceh's disbanded separatist movement to the jihadists' cause, supplying weapons and conducting military-style training.

"I have trained about 100 people in early 2009 and on another occasion there were about 67 people," he said.

Indonesia's jihadist "factions" had agreed to change tactics from indiscriminate, Bali-style bombings to more focused gun attacks that would minimise Muslim casualties, he said.

He was not specific about the group's targets, but said they included foreigners.

"You should understand already that Al-Qaeda has always had foreign targets," Tsauri said.

"We changed our pattern from bomb attacks to a war with guns. With guns, we can be more focused on our target but bombs can hit civilians. The jihadist factions in Indonesia agreed on this method."

He said he was betrayed by his Islamist cohorts once police got wind of their activities and started rounding up and killing members of the cell.

"I have been cheated by them. I became a scapegoat for their failure in Aceh," he said.

Indonesia is struggling to deal with the threat of homegrown Islamist militants who oppose its secular, democratic system and want to create a caliphate across much of Southeast Asia.

The country has been hit by a number of deadly bombings including attacks on luxury hotels, the Australian embassy and tourist spots which have killed around 250 people since 2002.

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