The United States has reported the capture of an Al
Qaida leader who was planning a series of attacks on Western targets.
Ryuduan Bin Isomuddin, also known as Hambali, was captured in Thailand
earlier this week and was taken into U.S. custody, officials said. The
officials said Hambali was the operational chief of the Al Qaida-linked
Jemaah Islamiya and a close associate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the former
operations chief of Al Qaida and captured in Pakistan in March 2003.
Hambali, who helped plan the bombing of a nightclub in Bali in October
2002 in which nearly 200 people were killed, was captured in a joint
operation that included the CIA, Indonesia and Thailand. Officials said
Hambali received a large sum of money from Al Qaida operatives in Pakistan
for a major attack against U.S. interests, Middle East Newsline reported.
"This is a significant victory in the global war on terrorism and a
devastating blow to the enemy," a U.S. senior administration official said
on Thursday. "He was one of the few remaining senior planners of Al Qaida
and their most important link to terrorist groups in Southeast Asia. It
effectively diminishes the group's lethal capabilities."
The senior official said Hambali, who speaks Arabic, was recruited to
find pilots for another series of suicide hijackings in the United States
that would have resembled the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York and
Washington in which more than 3,000 people were killed. Al Qaida provided
the 39-year-old Hambali with money relayed from Pakistan earlier this year.
"This is going to be very helpful in helping us obtain information about
current and future threats, this capture," the official said.
Officials said Hambali was the architect of Al Qaida's policy to
designate so-called soft targets. This has meant bombing nightclubs, hotels,
non-Muslim houses of worship and other civilian targets over the last 18
months in such countries as Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco and Tunisia.
U.S. officials said more than 3,000 Al Qaida operatives have been
captured since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They said this includes more than
50 percent of Al Qaida's leadership, including those who planned the 1998
attacks on U.S. embassies in east Africa and the 2000 bombing of the USS
"We have degraded and sown confusion into the uppermost ranks of Al
Qaida," State Department counter-terrorism coordinator Cofer Black said.
Black told a Washington conference that the U.S.-led war on terrorism
will not depend only on military might. He also cited diplomacy, homeland
defense, intelligence and efforts to stop financing to Al Qaida and related
"Indeed, diplomacy is the backbone of our campaign for one simple
reason," Black said. "International partnerships help us to act more
effectively. In fact, the very success of our efforts often rests with those
nations in the Near East, Africa, and Asia, who are working tirelessly with
us to find and defeat terrorism."