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Militant tells Bali court he wanted to be bomber

Written by: Staff
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DENPASAR, Indonesia, June 6 (Reuters) An Islamic militant confessed in court today he had offered to become a suicide bomber before the blasts that ripped through three restaurants on Indonesia's resort island of Bali last year.

Four men are being prosecuted under anti-terror laws for their alleged roles in the Oct. 1, 2005, attacks in which three suicide bombers blew themselves up in packed restaurants, killing 20 people.

In the opening trial in May, prosecutors said suspect Anif Solchanuddin underwent training to become a suicide bomber but was replaced at the last minute.

''I once offered myself to become a bomber,'' Solchanuddin told the Denpasar court when he testified on Tuesday in a trial against another defendant, Abdul Aziz, who is accused of setting up a militant Web site.

''Two days after the Bali bombing, I was asked whether I still wanted to become a suicide bomber,'' Solchanuddin said.

Asked by a member of the three-judge panel how he replied, the former mobile telephone salesman said: ''I was in doubt over the definition of jihad''.

Some say jihad means simply ''struggle'' in Arabic but others contend it refers specifically to holy war.

The reason why Solchanuddin did not become a suicide bomber in the 2005 Bali attacks remains unclear.

He is also accused of delivering bombs to one of Southeast Asia's top fugitives, Noordin Top, after the blasts.

All four could face the death penalty if convicted.

Police say Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Top, both Malaysian nationals, planned the 2005 Bali attacks and were leading figures in the al Qaeda-linked Southeast Asian network Jemaah Islamiah.

Jemaah Islamiah is blamed by authorities for terror strikes in the region, including the 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners partying on the tourist island.

Azahari, who often travelled with Top, was killed last year during a shoot-out near the East Java city of Malang.

In a late April raid, Indonesian police killed two militant suspects at Top's suspected hideout in the Central Java town of Wonosobo, but failed to capture him.

Police and intelligence officials say Jemaah Islamiah has become decentralised, with some factions splitting off and operating independently.

Officials add that despite the capture of nearly 300 people suspected of violating anti-terrorism laws, violent militants remain a serious threat in Indonesia, a vast archipelago with 17,000 islands and 220 million people.

REUTERS CH RN1230

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