Renewed calls for access to terror kingpin sparkle in Indonesia

The latest Bali bombings have triggered new calls for Washington to give Indonesian investigators access to detained Southeast Asian terror mastermind Hambali - a Muslim cleric once dubbed Osama bin Laden's point man in the region.

Washington's refusal, a long-standing irritant between the two nations, comes as the U.S. tries to boost anti-terror cooperation with Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

"I think the time has now come for the United States to give full access to the Indonesian police so they can interrogate Hambali," Theo Sambuaga, chairman of Parliament's political and security commission said.

The United States, in its turn, points out that giving Indonesian investigators access to Hambali, also known as Riduan Isamuddin, could compromise their own investigation of him.

The probe reportedly involves alleged links to two of the Sept. 11 hijackers and a plan to recruit new pilots for another wave of suicide hijackings in the United States.

Hambali, 41-year-old Indonesian citizen arrested in 2003 in Thailand, is also accused of being the operations chief of al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, the group emerging as the chief suspect in Saturday's strikes on Bali that killed 22 people, including three suicide bombers.

The Southeast Asian Jemaah Islamiyah network is accused in several other deadly bombings and failed plots in the region, including the Oct. 12, 2002 bombings on Bali that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Analysts said Hambali's testimony could have resulted in stronger prosecution cases against militants, and given Indonesian investigators a better general overview of how Jemaah Islamiyah operates.

Hambali was captured two years ago in the ancient Thai temple city of Ayutthaya, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Bangkok, by Thai forces and the CIA. He was handed over to U.S. authorities three days later and flown to an undisclosed location for interrogation.

Malaysia and the Philippines have also demanded access to Hambali.

A Malaysian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Tuesday that the country had not been given access to Hambali - something he said would have enabled it "to deepen our understanding on the networking of the Jemaah Islamiyah in Malaysia."

Manila has said it wants to put Hambali on trial for his alleged involvement in deadly bombings there, and expects him to provide information on terror plots, personalities and financing in Southeast Asia, the AP reports.

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