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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Hambali Behind Bali Bombing And Several Others

Aired August 14, 2003 - 15:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now someone also that knows this name very well and knows specifically last week's explosion at the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta all too well, our Maria Ressa. She's been having to cover these stories as they've happened throughout the years. Maria joins us now live -- on the phone rather via Jakarta. Maria, what type of reaction are you seeing there where you are with regard to this arrest?
MARIA RESSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the arrest itself.

PHILLIPS: All right. We're having trouble hearing actually Maria. We've got her hooked up, but tends to sound really low there. We're going to try and get that fixed and take a quick break. We'll talk to Maria...

RESSA: Yes, can you hear me?

PHILLIPS: Okay. Now I think we got it. Maria, you hear us okay?

RESSA: I can hear you, yes.

PHILLIPS: Perfect. Thank you. We got your audio up. We can hear you well now via Jakarta. Take us back to the beginning of what you said, please, Maria. We didn't catch any of that.

RESSA: I was just saying that there seems to be confusion here in Jakarta leading us to believe that perhaps the arrest may have taken place in another country. Officials have not confirmed nor deny the arrest itself. They seem to be trying to figure out exactly what is happening.

We are hearing word that perhaps the arrest may have taken place in another southeast Asian country -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Yes, were being -- actually, Washington said it did receive cooperation, Maria, from another government in this capture, but wouldn't identify the nation. So I take it you have not heard in the -- anything to that effect?

RESSA: No, not at this point. Although the people that I did speak with said that they welcomed this arrest wholeheartedly. As you've heard, Hambali is wanted in more than half a dozen southeastern Asian nations.

He is a key link between the home-grown network, Jemah Islamya, which basically functions as al Qaeda's arm in southeast Asia and al Qaeda itself. In fact, he's the only non-Arab decent on al Qaeda's leadership council. He's had a long history with al Qaeda. He's a veteran of the Afghan war. He also hooked up with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in 1994, that early.

He basically, along with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, built up the terror network within southeast Asia and as you heard earlier, he was linked to 9/11. In fact, not just from a meeting he set up, but as early as 1995, Hambali was actually one of the directors of a company, a Malaysian based company named Consa Jia (ph) which funded an al Qaeda cell that was busted in the Philippines. That was headed by Ramzi Ussef the mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

That cell is also credited with, basically, coming up with the blueprint for the 9/11 attacks. Not surprising one of the cell members was was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. So Hambali is a key link between al Qaeda. He's very closely linked to al Qaeda's No. 3 operations chief until he was arrested last march. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed did tell U.S. authorities that basically recruited Hambali to begin working in southeast Asia as early as 1994 -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And Maria, not only wanted by the United States, but at least half a dozen countries in southeast Asia, correct?

RESSA: Absolutely. He's wanted for several things, but one of the most audacious plans he did have as early as 2000 -- it was basically J.I., Jemah Islamya, flexing its wings -- his group sent out 38 bombs to priests and churches in Indonesia, although only 18 of those exploded. That was followed several days later by simultaneous blasts in the Philippines. So you had 18 bombs going off, five bombs in the Philippines going off in 16 different cities in two different countries in southeast Asia. That was J.I.'s opening salvo, if you can call it that.

After that in 2002, he started working on a truck bombing plot where he told his operatives to come up with 21 tons of explosives for seven suicide truck bombing attacks in the island state of Singapore. That was foiled and averted shortly before it was supposed to have been carried out. And then the plan B for that was carried out. That was the Bali bombing which killed more than 200 people on October 12, 2002. And then just recently, the Marriott attack a week or so ago.

PHILLIPS: Maria ressa reporting to us live from Jakarta. Once again, if you're just tuning in, Hambali, the mastermind behind last year's Bali nightclub bombings, also last week's explosion at the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta and possibly September 11, has been captured by the U.S. He is in U.S. custody. We'll continue to follow this story. Quick break and then we'll take a look at the headlines.

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