Thu, Jul 17, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Bali bomber calls whites `vicious'

CULTURE CLASH Although he would not admit to having the idea of bombing the bars yesterday, he has admitted to involvement in the attacks in defense of Islam

AFP , DENPASAR, INDONESIA

Self-confessed Bali bomber Imam Samudra yesterday denied he was the one who originally picked the island as a terror target but admitted he was disgusted by the behavior of foreign tourists there.

"I never mentioned Bali. Why Bali? I don't know," Samudra told his trial, answering a question from judges about why the island was chosen.

But he said he felt "disgusted" when he saw white people drinking liquor and frolicking while he was strolling past Bali's nightclub strips.

"I saw bules [white people] doing vicious things, drinking and adulterous things there," he said. "I felt extremely disgusted."

Samudra, 33, in recent court appearances has tried to play down his role in the attack. Police say that as field commander of the bombings, he picked two nightspots crowded with white people as the targets and ordered the attack.

Prosecutors say the idea for the bombings and the strategy came from Samudra, while the operation was authorized by another defendant called Mukhlas.

Samudra also said he saw al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden during three years spent in Afghanistan learning warfare skills and bomb-making but did not speak to him. He said he received instruction in religion and warfare from Arabs and Turks.

Samudra, who could face a firing squad if convicted of the bombings which killed 202 people, said he had wanted to die as a martyr since he was in junior high school.

He also admitted he wrote a Web page claiming responsibility for the blasts.

Samudra, answering questions from both judges and prosecutors, said he was obliged to wage war against infidels who oppress Muslims "wherever they are."

"As a Muslim I have a conviction that I have to defend oppressed Muslims, as stipulated by the Koran," he said.

"Islam is a blessing for the universe. If people are being slaughtered in Palestine but we are doing nothing about it, we will be cursed."

But Samudra said he was sorry for the death of fellow Muslims in the blasts, which he described as a "side effect."

Samudra denied he had acted as a planner of the Bali attack but said he was morally responsible for the bombings.

Police say the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror group, which has been linked to al-Qaeda, staged the bombings last October 12 in revenge for perceived injustices to Muslims worldwide.

The blasts killed mainly Australians and other people influenced by European and US cultures but 38 Indonesians also died.

JI's reputed leader Abu Bakar Bashir is on trial separately for attempting to topple the Indonesian government to establish an Islamic state. He is not charged with the Bali blasts.

Samudra said he once attended a sermon by Bashir but complained that it dwelt only on mysticism. "Mysticism makes people passive and I was bored," he said.

Samudra admitted he wrote a Web page claiming responsibility for the Bali bombings but said he had not had the chance to post it on the Internet.

"If it had been published it must have been the work of AFP [Australian Federal Police]," he said.

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