Sunday, August 17, 2003

Never let up

Captured terrorist: Isamuddin

The capture of a top al-Qaida ring-leader in Southeast Asia takes another mass murderer out of action and reassures that the War on Terrorism has not been put on a back burner.

The Indonesian Riduan Isamuddin, 39, also known as Hambali, reportedly masterminded the attack last week on the Marriott hotel in Jakarta and the Bali bombing that killed more than 200 in a crowded nightclub last year. Trained with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, Isamuddin most recently has been identified by other al-Qaida captives as recruiting pilots to hijack commercial aircrafts. He is believed to be one of bin Laden's chief liaisons with the Southeast Asian violent Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah. The CIA reportedly were involved in capturing Isamuddin, most likely in Thailand.

We should be relentless in hunting down any terrorist group, strike at their leaders, disrupt their networks, let them never know a day's peace again. We should take such groups apart, one by one if we must. Every capture of a top planner is a huge victory in the War on Terrorism, as big as winning major battles in conventional warfare.

President Bush told returning Marines in San Diego Thursday we are winning the War on Terrorism, and that Isamuddin is "one of the world's most lethal terrorists." Bush found it gratifying that Isamuddin is no longer a problem, 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."

Isamuddin has been linked to several Sept. 11 suicide hijackers and to other attacks on U.S. targets, including the U.S. destroyer Cole in October 2000. He was not just a plotter of cold-blooded mass murder but one of bin Laden ablest organizers of additional terror groups for the network, including Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. Isamuddin was tight with another al-Qaida operational chief, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was arrested in Pakistan in March.

No one should assume that capture of Isamuddin and Mohammed will stop terrorist attacks, but it will delay some plots and may force them to change course. It's encouraging to see information from captured terrorists is helping to catch others.

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