08 August 2009

Who was Noordin M Top ?

Noordin Mohammed Top, who is widely reported to have been killed in a shootout with police in Indonesia's Central Java region, was one of Asia's most wanted men.

The Malaysian national was believed to have been a key figure in Jemaah Islamiyah,
which is fighting for for an Islamic state in southeast Asia, acting as a recruiter, strategist and financier for the group.

Noordin split from the group in 2003 and set up Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad - or Organisation for the Base of Jihad - amid apparent differences over his policy of targeting civilians.

Indonesian security forces stepped up their hunt for the former accountant and maths teacher after he was identified as the principle suspect in twin hotel bombings that killed nine people in Jakarta, the Indonesia capital, in July.

After the attacks a message, purportedly from a group claiming to be "Al-Qaeda in Indonesia" and apparently signed by Noordin, claimed to have carried out the attacks.

Noordin had previously claimed to be al-Qaeda's representative in southeast Asia.

'Money man'

The 40-year-old Noordin was born in Johor, southern Malaysia, and completed a bachelor of science at the University of Technology, Malaysia in 1991.

In 2001, he fled to Indonesia with Azahari Husin, a Jemaah Islamiyah bombmaker, after the government in Kuala Lumpur launched a crackdown on Islamist fighters.

Intelligence officials say that on arriving in the country they began to recruit young Indonesians, some of them from Islamic boarding schools, for attacks they were planning to carry out.

Local newspapers decribed Noordin as the "Money Man" and Azahari as the "Demolition Man".

The two men were accused of planning the attacks on the JW Marriot hotel in Jakarta in 2003, which killed 12 people, the 2004 bombing on the Australian embassy, which killed at least nine, and the Bali bombings in 2005, which left more than 200 dead.

Indonesian troops from the elite Detachment 88 - the same force that apparently eventually tracked down Noordin - cornered Azahari, an engineer and former university lecturer, at a house in East Java in November 2005.

The father of two was killed, either by a police bullet or by a bomb set off by an accomplice.

Close network

However, Noordin remained at large, leading some Javanese to suggest that he must have magical powers or charms that protected him.

In 2006, he narrowly escaped a raid in Central Java in which two other fighters were killed.

Then shortly after July's attack in Jakarta, a woman believed to be Noordin's wife was arrested.

She told police that she thought her husband was a kind man who spent long periods away on business as the publicity agent for an Islamic school.

Police put his ability to remain elusive down to his reluctance to use mobile phones and his ability to rely on a close network of sympathisers who would act as couriers and keep his location secret.

Ken Conboy, a security consultant at Risk Management Advisory and author of several books on Indonesian security issues, said that Noordin's ability to recruit suicide bombers was key to his cell's success.

"He was able to get these usually village boys and convince them often in just matter of days to give their lives," he said.

"Now that he's gone out of that role, that's a big blow to what's left of that organisation ... now they're going to connect the dots and get everybody that was part of the network."

source: english.aljazeera.net

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