Hambali: Mastermind of Terror
The Grand Plan
Following his escape, Bashir fled to Malaysia and began recruiting new followers to join him in jihad. Eventually he took his message to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore, and garnered enough support to create Jemaah Islamiah.
On paper, JI looked the part. They had many followers through much of Southeast Asia, Bashir talked a good game but the implementation of anything worthwhile to the cause was found sadly lacking.
In the late 1980s, a penniless Isamuddin volunteered to fight with the mujahideen against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. He returned to Malaysia in 1990 to find an ineffectual group of grumbling dissidents instead of a revolutionary force preparing for holy war. Having spent much of his time in Osama bin Laden's terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he had become conversant with the nefarious ways of the international terrorist. He had "studied" with the likes of Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Hambali quickly noticed that while Bashir talked about jihad almost continually, he had very few ideas for putting together an effective plan. With his strong ties to bin Laden and al Qaeda, Hambali was able to gain funding and other resources necessary to assemble and train a network of small, Islamic extremist cells in Malaysia and throughout most of Southeast Asia. Under bin Laden's guidance he began to spread his vision far and wide and quickly became Bashir's second in command.
As Hambali's involvement in JI grew, so did his vision of an Islamic "super state." While adhering to the basic teachings of Darul Islam his plan called for the overthrow of existing governments, the installation and support of Islamic states and the unification of terrorist cells throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand. One of these was the bin Laden-supported Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines.
The CIA later estimated that, if successful, such an organization would have an active member base of more than 400 million people including 75 million men who were already fit and ready for military service. Given links with al Qaeda it would also have access to the shipping lanes in the South China Sea virtually guaranteeing unlimited access from Asia through to the Indian Ocean to India, Africa and Australia.
In 1994, using funding and support from bin Laden and al Qaeda, Hambali set up an umbrella company called Konsojaya. Ostensibly an "import-export" company, Konsojaya's structure provided the perfect cover for planned terrorist activities and also provided a legal conduit for the transfer of funds throughout Southeast Asia.
One of the company's directors was Wali Khan Amin Shah, a veteran mujahideen and experienced al Qaeda operative in the Philippines with strong links to Abu Sayyaf. He was also rumored to have played an important part in the 9/11 attacks.
The funds to support Abu Sayyaf allegedly were brought to the Philippines by Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden's brother-in-law. They too set up an "import-export" company called Benevolence International Corp. as well as launching several Islamic charities whose prime function was to distribute funding to individual terror cells to prepare them for attacks.