Indonesia: DNA test shows Bali bombing mastermind not dead

Initial media reports had suggested Noordin Muhammad Top was killed in a shootout last week.

Noordin Mohammad Top 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Noordin Mohammad Top 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Indonesia's most wanted Islamist militant, accused in a string of deadly terror attacks including a bombing in Bali, was not killed in a shootout last week as initial media reports suggested and remains at large, police said Wednesday. Tests comparing the body's DNA with that of members of Noordin Muhammad Top's family came back negative, said Eddy Saparwoko, head of the national police victim identification unit. The body was found to be that of a florist linked to Noordin who police said was a member of a terrorist cell that led last month's twin suicide hotel bombings in Jakarta. Noordin, a Malaysian national, has been blamed for masterminding a series of deadly al-Qaida-funded attacks in Indonesia since 2003 and is a prime suspect in the July 17 hotel attacks that killed seven people. Last month's strikes ended a four-year lull in terrorist attacks in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation. Bombings have killed more than 250 people in Indonesia since 2002, most of them on the resort island of Bali, where a 2002 attack killed 202 people. "The DNA test didn't match with Noordin's family," Saparwoko said at a nationally televised press conference Wednesday. Local media had reported that Noordin, a self-proclaimed al-Qaida commander who has eluded capture in Indonesia and Malaysia since 2001, was slain in a gunbattle with security forces. But Saparwoko said the man who died in the shootout at a farmhouse in central Java on Saturday was a florist, identified only as Ibrohim. He made floral arrangements at the J.W. Marriott Hotel and Ritz-Carlton hotels, where suicide bombers attacked last month during breakfast, killing themselves and wounding more than 50 others. Chief national police spokesman Nanan Sukarna identified Ibrohim as "a planner and arranger of the bombings" and said that five other suspects in the blasts remain at large, including Noordin. Ibrohim, the father of four children, began working in Jakarta's luxury hotels in 2002 after gaining "an important position in the Noordin M. Top's network," Nanan said. He began working in 2005 for Cynthia Florist, which operated two shops at the American hotel chains. Police say Ibrohim met Noordin several times in the run-up to the July attacks and had advanced preparations to kill President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, including a would-be suicide bomber and a car rigged with hundreds of pounds (kilograms) of explosives. In April, Ibrohim began scouting the targets and smuggled explosives in through a basement cargo dock a day before the strikes, Nanan said, showing newly released security camera footage. The grainy images show a lone man driving a small pickup truck into the J.W. Marriott Hotel and unloading what police said were three containers of explosives, apparently after skirting all security checks. The video also showed Ibrohim leading the suicide bombers, one of them an 18-year-old high school graduate, through the hotels on July 8, apparently in a rehearsal for the attacks plotted from two rented safe houses on the outskirts of Jakarta. "We know him. He worked as a third-party florist," said Allan Orlob, head of security for the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels. Ibrohim resigned the morning of the bombings, Orlob told The Associated Press on Wednesday, and left only a letter to his employer in which he asked that part of his last paycheck be used to reimburse several people who loaned him money. Noordin, 41, is also accused of orchestrating a bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in 2003 and a massive explosion outside the Australian Embassy in 2004, attacks in the capital that killed more than 20 people.