Riduan Isamuddin (Hambali): The “Osama Bin Laden” Of Southeast Asia

Adam Fitzgerald
22 min readNov 25, 2023


“Intelligence officials here say that during the past decade, Hambali and his associates have built a logistical support network for Al Qaeda — supplying housing, cash, and false documents to the men involved in some of the most damaging terrorist attacks ever launched on the US: the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen; and the Sept. 11 attacks. For example, Hambali and his subordinates met with at least two of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers in Malaysia as far back as January 2000, officials here say.

They say that Hambali’s organization provided money and documents identifying Zacarias Moussaoui as a consultant for a Malaysian company, Infocus Tech, which allowed him to enter the US. Mr. Moussaoui is a Sept. 11 suspect and is now in US custody. Regional security analysts say the reasons Hambali wasn’t pursued sooner is that the assumption was that there were few, if any, Al Qaeda operatives native to the region. Moreover, there was weak coordination by regional and US intelligence agencies.”

(Christian Science Monitor, “Filipino Police Uncover 1995 Leads To Sept 11 Plot”, February 14, 2002)

West Java was one of the first eight provinces of Indonesia formed following the country’s independence proclamation and was later legally re-established on 14 July 1950. The villages and townships here are known for its hardworking people who started working in the various industrial centers. But it also suffered from poverty as well. On April 4th 1964, Encep Nurjaman was born in the town of Cianjur in West Java. He was the son of a peasant farmer, and was the second of thirteen children. During his formulative years, Encep, began enrolling at the Islamic high school, Al-Ianah. It was here he was introduced to the radical islamic fundamnetlist group, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which were dedicated to bringing Indonesia under the enshrinement of an islamic state.

In 1983, at age 19, Encep travelled to Afghanistan, to fight against the communists in Kabul and to help the mujahedeen recapture the country’s capitol. Another member of the JI, Nasir Abbas, trained in military combat along with Encep in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Abbas remarked that Encep was quite affable.

“He was so eloquent and so clever. You couldn’t help but be left with a good impression of him,”

Between the years 1987–1990, it is reported thru Encep Nurjaman’s enemy combatant review board profile, that he met with a Saudi millionaire and leader of the arabs in Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden. The tall and quiet nature of Bin Laden, fit with Encep's equally shy nature. He was also quite “religious”. Bin Laden noticed that Encep was very good with numbers and also rather eager to work. Qualities Bin Laden was looking for as members of his group, Al Qaeda.

Hambali returned back to his home town of Cianjur to meet with family who had no idea he left for Afghanistan, they believed he went to another country to work. After a week, he travelled to Malaysia. Where he met with two individuals who he had met while in Afghanistan, Abdullah Sungkar and Abubakar Bashir. It wa shortly after meeting both men, that Encep began using an alias, Riduan Isamuddin. The three lived in a housing compound in Kampung Sungai Manggis, Banting, Selangor which was situated south of Malaysia.

Both Bashir and Sungkar were also trying to evade Indonesian authorities and also persecution from the Suharto government, who were trying to crackdown on the country’s radical Islamist problem. It is alleged that both men, along with Hambali, started a new organization, Jemaah Islamiyah, on January 1st 1993. In 1994, Hambali, living in a village north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, began frequently receiving visitors. According to his landlord, “Some looked Arab and others white.” There has been no explanation who these “white” visitors may have been. Hambali had been very poor prior to this time, but he is suddenly “flush with newfound cash” brought by the visitors.

Abdullah Sungkar, who along with Bashir had been at war with the Indonesia and Malaysian government’s to institute the Quran and Sunnah and make the countries ruled by an Islamic rule of law. Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, the brother in law of Osama Bin Laden, had multiple Indonesian businesses. Khalifa was Al Qaeda’s contact in Indonesia, and coordinated with other businesses to clean the money before it went to Al Qaeda contact’s thru-ought Southeast Asia and United States. Hambali travelled to Malaysia and opened a shell company, The Konsojaya Trading Company along with his Malaysian Chinese wife, Noralwizah Lee Abdullah in June 1994. One of Hambali’s contacts from the Afghan-Soviet war, Wali Khan Amin Shah, was named as one of the board of directors of the company.

Konsojaya stated in its incorporation papers that it was an “import/export” company that shipped palm oil to Afghanistan from Malaysia. The organisation also dealt with the export of Sudanese honey. Its “principal objective” was to import and export products found in the Asia/Pacific region to Afghanistan. The company attracted many high level contract terrorists, such as, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and Abdul Hakim Murad. Mohammed, who was staying in Manila, Philippines, often travelled to several places, including Brazil, to promote Konsojaya. Khalifa began funneling money from his businesses back to contact's in New York City at Al Farouq in Brooklyn, Meanwhile Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and his nephew, Ramzi Yousef, were hiding out in the Philippines planning an inter-continental terrorist operation code named “Bojinka”.

The operation was a multi-phase plan where they would put 12 timex watches outfitted with nitro-glycerin and a timer while placed underneath a seat near the plane’s fuel tanks. Hambali, Shah Murad, Yousef and Muhammed were involved in various plots and had different roles in each one. For Hambali, he excelled at money laundering. By 1995, Philippines investigators who were monitoring Ramzi Yousef and Abdul Hakim Murad, had received some pot luck, as Murad mixed chemicals which caused their hotel room to become blacked out by thick acrid smoke which poured out out the cracked windows and thru the door. Lead investigator Rodolfo Mendoza conducted his interrogation of Murad who opens up and tells him about the Bojinka operation.

In the spring of 1995, Mendoza gave the US a chart he made of the Bojinka plotters, and Konsonjaya was centrally featured in it. He later said, “It was sort of their nerve center.” According to Mendoza, the FBI received his copy of the Murad report but nothing was done. Shortly after Ramzi Yousef’s Manila apartment was broken into, documents found there connected Konsonjaya with the “Ladin International” company in Sudan. An FBI memo at the time noted the connection.

They also found Yousef’s laptop, which contained the names and organizations who were involved with the Bojinka plot. The plot outlined it’s objectives which were to bomb 12 airliners coming and going to the United States and Southeast Asia, assassinate Pope John Paul II and a hidden third phase. This part of the plot Murad kept secret until he spoke with Mendoza. Thru a deal made from a McDonald’s meal, Murad told Mendoza about sleeper cells inside the United States that were to receive a message from someone involved in the operation. They were to train at flight schools, and then board a plane (whose destination was the target) and to manually control the plane after taking over the controls by force and intentionally crash the plane into it’s final destination. Mendoza was horrified. His report was hand delivered to FBI director Louis Freeh and to the NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). It also was sent to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

However no there were no efforts made to strengthen or implement stricter security measures nor were domestic flights ever were warned about a plot to manually take over the planes and crash them. Their training did not mention such scenarios either. Mendoza constructed a remarkably accurate flow chart connecting many key operators in the Bojinka plot, and sent it to US investigators as well, showing a connection between Philippines and US fundamentalist connections. The chart identifies the following key organizations as being involved in the plot, such as, the Al-Harakat al-Islamiya, the Philippines terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and Khalifa’s Konsonjaya business'.

Also found on Yousef’s computer, was a photograph of Riduan Isamuddin, Hambali. However, the FBI would not learn about Hambali until four years later. It was thru Hambali and his penchant for bombs that the Jemaah Islamiyah began targeting civilians, both locals and foreigners, bars, clubs and hotels which received the country’s largest finances thru international tourism. Abu Bakar Bashir, once the head master of the Al Mukmin school in Indonesia, taught many of his students that the Suharto and Habibie governments wanted to Westernize Indonesia and that the religion of Islam was under attacks. To destabilize the regimes, they needled to forcefully implement the Sunnah and Sharia by attacking the West influence. This gave rise to future terrorists like Hambali, Imam Samudra and Amrozi (the latter two being involved with the 2002 Bali bombings).

On January 5th 2000, acting on the behalf of the CIA, Malaysian intelligence videotapes the attendees of an al-Qaeda summit located in a condo owned by Yazid Sufaat. The NSA had a wiretap operation that fixated on a house owned by an associate of Bin Laden, Ahmed al-Hada in Sana'a Yemen. The NSA had heard a phone call between someone named “Khallad” and a “Khalid”. Khallad had asked Khalid that he and Nawaf and Salim, were to attend a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. What is not known to the public are the specific details of what this meeting entailed. All three men flew to Malaysia. One of the attendees, was Riduan Isamuddin.

The CIA had been made aware of the meeting thru a CIA analyst working with NSA on the Yemen operation. Later the FBI were also involved. The CIA had a prior history of knowing two men who are attending this summit, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. What the FBI or State Department didn’t know, until this year thru the revelation of the Canestraro documents, that the Saudi intelligence service and CIA were running a covert monitoring operation on both al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. The meeting involved high profiles names involved with Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Qaeda. Names such as:

Khalid Sheikh Muhammed
Ramzi bin al-Shibh
Fahad al-Quso
Tawfiq Bin Attash (Khallad)
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri
Ahmad Hikmat Shakir
Mohamed al-Khatani

The meeting lasted three days (January 5–8) and according to US intelligence, it is speculated the plan for the meeting was to talk about terrorist operations which later would be the bombing of a US naval ship and the Khalid Sheikh Muhammed’s “planes operation” (also known as the 9/11 attacks). Hambali was the only attendee of the meeting that could have been arrested for ties to terrorism. However, the US failed to share information with Malaysian authorities, about his connection to the Bojinka plot, even thou Malaysian intelligence had recognized Hambali and Yazid Sufaat from photos of the meeting!

An interesting omission!

What is also interesting to note, and also wasn’t made aware of Indonesian or Malaysian authorities, was the simple fact that Hambali was one of the founders of Konsonjaya, the same front company owned by Jamal Khalifa, was central to funding the Bojinka plot! What made this even far more puzzling was that the FBI failed to follow up with Hambali, despite their knowledge of him. By Spring of 2000, FBI agent Jack Cloonan, a member of the FBI’s I-49 bin Laden squad, would tell author Peter Lance after 9/11 that another FBI agent belonging to I-49 named Frank Pellegrino saw some of the surveillance photos taken of the al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia several months earlier while Pellegrino was hunting for Muhammed in Malaysia!

Cloonan will say, “Pellegrino was in Kuala Lumpur,” the capital of Malaysia. “And the CIA chief of station said, ‘I’m not supposed to show these photographs, but here. Take a look at these photographs. Know any of these guys?’” But Pellegrino does not recognize them, as he is working to catch Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and apparently is not involved in other cases. The FBI learned of Hamabli and his ties to Konsonjaya from Mendoza’s Bojinka report from Abdul Hakim Murad interviews in 1995. However the FBI had not made this an information report to headquarters, thus the connection wasn’t made to Hambali and the Malaysian summit meeting. They had missed a great chance to capture, arrest and rendition Riduan Isamuddin himself.

Intelligence reports by the Spring of 2000 showed that Jemaah Islamiyah began preparing to attack US military personnel in Singapore, but they instead consulted al-Qaeda’s top leaders and passes them a casing video before it begins carrying out the plot. The initial plan is to attack a bus that transports US military personnel from a metro station in Singapore and is devised by a JI operative called Faiz abu Baker Bafana. Usually Al Qaeda would approve of such an operation, as just two years earlier, Osama Bin Laden issued a second fatwa from the International Islamic Front for Jihad on the Jews and Crusaders, led by Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, stated that Muslims should kill Americans — including civilians — anywhere in the world where they can be found.

However, when the proposal is shown to Hambali, Bafana is told that he needs the approval of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed for the operation and that he has to travel to Afghanistan to get it. Bafana cannot find KSM, so he talks to Mohammed Atef (Al Qaeda military commander), who promises to provide funding and suicide bombers, as long as JI contributes explosives and transport. KSM subsequently sends Bafana money for the operation. while future 9/11 hijacker, Khalid al-Mihdhar, apparently visits Malaysia twice to move the plot forward. Incidentally the casing video would later be found at former an Al Qaeda guesthouse which was bombed by the military of the US, during it’s invasion of Afghanistan in the winter of 2001. As for the plot? Singapore was able to roll the plot up based on information it obtains on its own.

Failed operations would not stop The Jemaah Islamiyah as it continued it’s onslaught against the Habibie government. This time during the Christmas holiday season, as they considered Christianity at war against Islam. Between the dates of December 24th to 30th 2000, two series of bombings happened in Indonesia, then in the Philippines. The Christmas Eve attacks in Indonesia comprise a series of 38 bombings in 11 cities and are directed against churches. Nineteen people are killed and over a hundred injured. The attacks in the Philippines kill 22 and injure 120 in the country’s capital, Manila. Jemaah Islamiyah took full responsibility for the attacks. As the investigations began, the name Hambali came up. Arrests and interviews began on the same night, one piece of evidence of Jemaah Islamiyah's involvement would be learned thru a simple phone call. Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, was once a student in Abu Bakr Bashir’s Al Munim school, where Wahhabism was taught, would be the one who called in the police claiming the group was behind the attacks.

Al-Ghozi received military training at an al-Qaeda camp, including bomb-making instruction from Abu Khabab al-Masri, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. al-Masri was a chemist and alleged top bomb maker for Al Qaeda. al-Masri also was the top instructor at the infamous Derunta training camp in Afghanistan where he is reported to have used dogs and other animals for his chemical experiments. He is also alleged to have written an explosives manual, and to have personally trained Richard Reid.

Police had learned that a call claiming responsibility for the bombing was made from a phone registered to Al-Ghozi and would later trace calls from this phone to JI leader Hambali and one of his subordinates, Faiz abu Baker Bafana. Philippines authorities then keep al-Ghozi under surveillance for a year, before arresting him in January 2002. The police had managed to arrest him before boarding a plane from Manila to Bangkok for an arranged meeting with Riduan Isamuddin and other al-Qaeda and JI operatives. Southeast Asian authorities had begun to investigate Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) with more urgency after more arrests were made.

The series of bombings put more light towards Hambali, who wished to have remained in the deep recesses of the dark. The Malaysian government would soon connect Hambali with a gun-smuggling syndicate, and as a result police place an all points bulletin for him. Members of the Malaysian militant group Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) are arrested and questioned about a series of robberies. Authorities discover the group had been responsible for a number of attacks, including the bombing of a Hindu temple, and that Hambali is a top leader. A photograph of Hambali is found in a raid at this time, and is matched with a photo of him discovered in 1995 on Ramzi Yousef’s computer that contained files detailing the Bojinka plot. Nevertheless, this new evidence of Hambali’s importance does not lead to any renewed focus on the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit attended by Hambali and two of the 9/11 hijackers that was monitored by Malaysian intelligence.

Over in Langley, the analyst offices of the CIA, were running it’s operations of the al-Hada home without any knowledge of it by the FBI or even the Department of State. This was primarily due to the fact that what the agency was doing was highly illegal, and to top it off, the Saudi intelligence service or the “Mabahith”, were also involved. The FBI were also unaware of Hambali’s connection made at the Al Qaeda summit meeting and the bombing in the final weeks of December 2000. It seemed, at most, that the world’s most nefarious terrorist's were seemingly invisible in the public eye.

When Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi left the meeting in Malaysia they boarded a plane to Bangkok, Thailand for a connecting flight to Los Angeles. On this flight was Tawfiq bin Attash, who used an alias. He leaves both men and cases four flights to acquires basic information about how a hijacking might be conducted. After 9/11, he will later tell a CIA interrogator that he took a box cutter onto the plane but that security did not notice it. While in Malaysia he and fellow operative Abu Bara al Taizi initially stay with Hambali and at the Endolite clinic, where Khallad receives a new prosthesis.

What wasn’t immediately known to the public, was just how important this meeting was, that even the highest factions of the US government were made aware of it and who attended. CIA Director George Tenet, FBI Director Robert Mueller, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, and other high-ranking officials are given daily briefings about it while it is taking place. According to Malaysian authorities, they were told by their counterparts at Langley to videotape anyone attending.

The Los Angeles Times, in their October 14th 2001 edition, would note that Malaysian intelligence made a single surveillance videotape “that shows men arriving at the meeting, according to a US intelligence official. The tape, he said, has no sound and isn’t viewed as very significant at the time.” The contents of the videotape remain murky, but one account claims Ramzi bin al-Shibh was one of the attendees videotaped at the summit. Hambali was also seen in this videotape. Currently the CIA does not confirm nor deny that this tape exists.

Another interesting person who attended this meeting was Zacarias Moussaoui. Moussaoui had been staying in Malaysia so that he could take flight training classes at the Malaysian Flying Academy in Malacca. However, he is unhappy with the quality of training there. He takes the $35,000 given to him by his hosts, Yazid Sufaat and Hambali, and spends it to buy fertilizer to construct bombs. Hambali however finds Moussaoui quite unpredictable and complains about his attitude to Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. Moussaoui travels to London instead and meets with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who left the meeting just 2 days prior. He makes his way to Afghanistan and meets with Mohammed. Mohammed decides to send him to take flight training classes in the US instead.

Hambali wanted Moussaoui to be used as a courier in Indonesia and also to make bombs to be used on churches and clubs. However, with the impending prosecution of those involved with the Kumpulan Militan Malaysia and the members of Jemaah Islamiyah involved with the December bombings, Hambali was now the focus for arrest in Malaysia and Indonesia.

According to a report by Stewart Bell of the National Post dated January 18th 2003, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a young Canadian citizen who recently joined al-Qaeda, meets Hambali in Karachi, Pakistan, to get instructions in carrying out an attack in Southeast Asia. An investigation by the National Post, however, based on classified intelligence documents and interviews, has found that Jabarah long ago admitted to being an al-Qaeda agent recruited to organize attacks in Southeast Asia.

Jabarah was code-named Sammy. He excelled in weapons training at al-Qaeda camps in eastern Afghanistan and made such an impression that, in July, 2001, he convinced Osama bin Laden he could be an effective international operative. Eventually, Jabarah was introduced to Hambali. The meeting took place at the Karachi apartment of one of Hambali’s four wives. He instructed Jabarah to contact his two point men in Malaysia — Mahmoud (an alias for Faiz Bafana) and Saad (an alias for Fathur Rahman Al Ghozi).

“Make sure you leave before Tuesday,” Hambali cautioned Jabarah, according to the FBI. The Tuesday he was referring to was September 11th. The day Al Qaeda were to hijack four planes and intentionally crash them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Jabarah left Pakistan for Hong Kong on September 10th. He was staying at a Hong Kong hotel when hijacked planes brought down the World Trade Center. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is later seen in Karachi and working with Jabarah and Hambali on future Southeast Asian plots, and KSM had also warned Jabarah to travel before September 11th.

After the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks, anyone involved with the top hierarchy of Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah (those at the meeting) went underground. Hambali travelled between the Philippines and Indonesia, staying at guest houses and homes in the rural areas. But it didn’t stop Jemaah Islamiyah from concocting future plots or carrying them out. The US invasion of Afghanistan began immediately in response to the attacks the military began bombing known Al Qaeda-Taliban buildings. On November 15th, the first resounding strike against Al Qaeda came with the bombing of a house where Al Qaeda’s military commander was staying in, Mohammed Atef.

US forces search the building where he was killed and find lots of evidence about al-Qaeda members and various plots. One of the pieces of evidence found is a casing video for an attack on US personnel in Singapore, which al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah have been plotting for some time. Weeks before his death, Atef had met with Hambali and instructed him to carry out attacks quickly because the US would begin its offensive into the country.

The attack took place on American soil, but it was an attack on the heart and soul of the civilized world. And the world has come together to fight a new and different war, the first, and we hope the only one, of the 21st century. A war against all those who seek to export terror, and a war against those governments that support or shelter them.

— President George W. Bush, October 11, 2001

Feeling the precure from the international community on the crackdown of islamic fundamentalism, Yazid Sufaat is arrested in Malaysia on December 19th 2001. According to interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Hambali, and other captured prisoners, Sufaat was given the lead in developing chemical and biological weapons for al-Qaeda. Sufaat would deny any connections to Jemaah Islamiyah but could not deny his presence during the Malaysian Al Qaeda summit one year ago prior. He also could not deny meeting with Moussaoui and giving him residency at his home for a couple of days before he arrived in the United States. US investigators has only been able to directly interview him on one brief occasion, in November 2002.

Hambali continued to evade authorities during the manhunt for international terrorists. But on October 12th 2002, the second worst terrorist attack by islamic fundamentalists took place. A car bomb detonated in front of a discotheque at Kuta Beach, on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, starting a fire that rages through a dozen buildings, killing 202 people. No group claims responsibility, but Jemaah Islamiyah, is suspected. It is alleged that Hambali was involved meeting with the suspects involved, Amrozi and Imam Samudra. It will later turn out that the US was given a “stunningly explicit and specific” advanced warning that Hambali and Jemaah Islamiyah were planning to attack nightclubs in Bali. If true, this would become almost “standard” that the US intelligence services would fail in their duties to stop an attack when it could do so. Examples would be the 9/11 and 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings.

In early 2003, the Treasury Department draws up a list of 300 individuals, charities, and corporations in Southeast Asia believed to be funding al-Qaeda and its suspected Indonesian affiliate Jemaah Islamiya. “Due to inter-agency politics, the list is winnowed down to 18 individuals and 10 companies.” Malaysian authorities soon begin their manhunt for Hambali.

The assets of Jemaah Islamiyah itself were frozen shortly after the October 2002 Bali bombing was blamed on the group, though ties between the group and al-Qaeda were first publicly reported in January 2002. Hambali only had his assets frozen in January 2003, even though he was publicly mentioned as a major figure as far back as January 2001. The pressure was intense for Hambali and his associates. Malaysian and Indonesian investigators were handing out flyers with Hambali’s face on them, to the local villagers who would be offered a princely sum that would lead to the capture of the mad bomb maker for the Jemaah Islamiyah.

Much like the leaders of the “planes operation”, the CIA began taking the names on it’s “kill list”one by one. The tip came in, where Hambali and 3 of his associates were living in a one-room apartment in the city north of Bangkok, in the ancient Buddhist city of Ayutthaya, Thailand. In addition to being wanted in the United States he was also wanted in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. It was considered such a huge victory against the war in terror, that US President George W. Bush made a note regarding his arrest later in the day to reporters.

“He is no longer a problem to those of us who love freedom. And neither are nearly two-thirds of known senior al-Qaida leaders, operational managers and key facilitators who have been captured or have been killed.”

According to a report by the Chicago Tribune dated December 7th 2003, He is taken into US custody and is said to quickly and fully cooperate with his captors. Intelligence officials believe Hambali may have been al-Qaida’s Southeast Asia connection and a top bin Laden lieutenant. Hambali is accused of organizing a meeting between two of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers in 2000 and of masterminding several bombings, including a rash of church bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines in 2000, and a failed plot to bomb western targets in Singapore in late 2001.

However, shortly after he is arrested in Thailand, Hambali is taken to an unknown location and tortured at CIA black sites. According to NBC News, he is waterboarded, which is a technique simulating drowning that is widely regarded as torture. He is only one of about four high-ranking detainees waterboarded, according to media reports. He is reportedly chosen for waterboarding because he is resistant to other interrogation methods. NBC News claims that, according to multiple unnamed officials, “Hambali… quickly told all he knew.” One official claims Hambali “cried like a baby” after his first waterboarding session.

On August 11, 2003, the United States government subjected Hambali to almost three years of isolation, interrogation and torture. But a complete description of his torture as well as the locations in which it occurred remained classified by the United States government.

According to the Rendition Project’s website:

“The fate and whereabouts of Hambali after the initial six weeks of his detention in Afghanistan is unclear. Indeed, the only fact which has been made public regarding Hambali’s treatment after Afghanistan comes from his testimony to the International Committee of the Red Cross, where he states that in his third place of detention ‘he was threatened with a return to previous methods of ill-treatment (namely, having his head slammed against the wall by use of a collar), by his interrogators showing him the collar during interrogation sessions’.

Hambali has also been cited by the Associated Press’ Adam Goldman as having been detained in Morocco and then Romania during 2004 and 2005, although again there is little in the way of detailed evidence in the public domain to support such assertions. The complains of unchartered US flghts were reported by the New York Times, with allegations of torture to those held at undisclosed black sites and in Afghanistan. By 2006, the US temporarily closes a network of secret CIA prisons around the world and transfers the most valuable prisoners to the US prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, for eventual military tribunals. However, some of these prisons would reopen. With CIA approval of course!

Both Department of Defense records and the SSCI report document that Hambali was transferred out of the CIA’s secret prison network and into US military detention in Guantánamo Bay on September 4th 2006, alongside the other HVDs in custody at that time (all of whom appear to have been moved out of CIA custody and transferred to Guantánamo Bay on 4 September or 5 September 2006). This final transfer was announced by President Bush, as part of a wider disclosure about the CIA’s use of secret prisons. Hambali’s final destination was to Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba in 2006 and given detainee ISN number 10019.

With the “Guantanamo Five” trial put on hold, due largely to the simple fact that all five were horrifically tortured for the information of their complicity to the September 11th attacks and just about every terrorist event in the last 20 years. And according to an Al Jazeera report dated April 23rd 2023,

“ …the US government alleges that Hambali “murdered 211 persons, seriously injured at least 31 other persons, and committed multiple other offenses under the law of war”.

Ridan Isamuddin defense is led by James Hodes, who has represented him for three years. According to Carol Rosenberg, NY Times:

“Prosecutors have proposed to hold the trial in 2025. But in the summer and fall of 2023, the two Malaysian defendants, Mohammed Farik Bin Amin and Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, had their cases separated and reached secret plea agreements with the U.S. government. Hearings are scheduled for January 2024 for a judge to decide whether to accept the pleas, with sentencing to follow. If the pleas succeed, the lead defendant, Encep Nurjaman, would face trial alone.”

Hodes thinks his client, Encep Nurjaman (aka, Riduan Isamuddin, Hambali) has a chance at escaping his charges of aiding and abetting terrorists, being involved with any aspect of the 9/11 attacks due to the simple fact that he was held for three years and tortured at CIA black sites for the information that led to him being charged with.

For the last 17 years at Guantanamo Bay prison, Nurajaman had been isolated and lived under deteriorating conditions. Hodes would later tell Al Jazeera on April 24th 2023

“My impressions gleaned, not necessarily from conversations with my client, are that the detainees are still subject to certain limitations but that Hambali and the other detainees have the ability to pray and have the ability to exercise their right to freedom of religion,”

Lt. Col. Wesley A. Braun of the Air Force, who is based in Texas, was assigned to the case on July 28, the same month he began his second stint as a military judge. He is to lead the court case for Hambali. But it seems the trial is to be on hold for now. Which isn’t curious when you consider that in 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, found that Hambali was subjected to treatment that was so heinous that a U.S. interrogator told Mr. Hambali he “would never go to court because ‘we can never let the world know what I have done to you.’

According to the same Rosenberg NY Times article:

“The study also discredits the agency’s claims that intelligence extracted from him provided new information in the war against terrorism. It questioned whether Mr. Hambali, taking his cues from his interrogation, told C.I.A. employees what they wanted to hear. He later recanted, according to the Senate study, and C.I.A. officials found those retractions credible.”

Both Mohammed Farik Bin Amin and Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep are set to testify against Hambali so it remains to be seen what comes from this case against Indonesia’s most wanted terrorist. However, if it shows that they cannot prove their case without information other than Hambali’s own admissions own statements, which came under duress, then he will be found not guilty on those specific charges. The victims of Hambali’s alleged bombing campaign will feel the burn, so to speak. No thanks in part to the CIA who knowingly used torture to extract this information, that they also knew couldn't be used against him. Maybe it’s high time we put George Tenet, former DCI, and Cofer Black, former CTC director, under the hot seat to explain why.



Adam Fitzgerald

Geo-political scientist/researcher into the events of September 11th 2001.