The New York Times

July 3, 2006

A Terror Strike, Choreographed on a Computer

By RAYMOND BONNER

JAKARTA, Indonesia, July 2 — The bombs should be small and placed in day packs, making them harder to detect. The bombers should dress like tourists. They should not bother targeting hotels because security is too tight. Instead they should consider restaurants, discos and theaters.

A thorough survey should be done in advance by the bombers themselves. That way, they are more familiar with the sites, and no one is left behind to be hunted later by the police.

"There is no escape plan because the perpetrators will become martyrs," the planning document states. "They will go to the targets and not return."

That is part of the playbook for a suicide bombing, including even a minute-by-minute choreography of the bombers' final hours. The Indonesian police uncovered the document from the computer of one of the planners of an attack last October in Bali, which killed 20 people when three men walked into separate restaurants and blew themselves up.

The document offers a rare glimpse into the minds of the most cunning terrorist plotters and of the kind of meticulous planning that lies behind their operations. It also shows what even a small, local group with few resources can do, and the difficulty of thwarting their plans.

"It tells us that these guys tried to think of every contingency," said Sidney Jones, project director of the International Crisis Group's office in Jakarta, and one of the foremost authorities on terrorism in Southeast Asia. "Even when they're being hunted, they had the capacity to think through what had to be done right down to the second."

The 34-page document, titled "The Bali Project," was found on the computer of Azhari Husin, a Malaysian-born engineer educated in Australia and Britain who became a master bomb maker and was one of the most dangerous terrorists in Southeast Asia until he was killed in a shootout with the police last November.

The document was given to The New York Times by a person who requested anonymity because it had not been officially released. It was first reported on by Tempo, an English-language weekly newsmagazine here.

Mr. Azhari's co-planner was Mohammad Noordin Top, who has narrowly escaped capture several times and remains on the run, one of the most wanted men in Southeast Asia.

The Indonesian police have said they found no evidence of any link to Al Qaeda in the Bali bombings. Members of Jemaah Islamiyah, the fundamentalist Islamic movement here, were involved, but the operation was not directed from the top of that organization, the police have said.

The document, written in six sections, sheds little new light on those links but corrects some initial speculation about the attack — that the bombs were assembled in the Philippines, for instance, and that the attack was aimed at the Indonesian government, or the Balinese economy.

The author, who the police say they believe was Mr. Azhari himself, begins by asking, "Why Bali?" Because it will have a "global impact," he answers. "Bali is known around the world, better than Indonesia itself," the author writes. "An attack in Bali will be covered by the international media."

In Section 2, "Method of Attack," he notes that the plan must differ from the first attack in Bali, in October 2002, when a minivan loaded with explosives was detonated in front of two nightclubs, killing 202 people.

Now, "security is tighter," the author writes, noting that the police chief in Bali had increased the number of intelligence officers to 256 from 70.

The author concludes that it is too risky to bring in a truck or a similarly large amount of explosives and that it would be more difficult to rent a house with a garage to assemble a bomb. "The bomb must be smaller, and brought in ready to use," the document says.

The targets, the author writes, are "foreign tourists from America and its allies," which included all NATO countries, as well as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Thailand and the Philippines.

The author knew that the bombers would have trouble determining the native country of many tourists. "So, we will consider all white people the enemy," the document says.

A few weeks before the attacks, the three men who would carry out the operation were sent to Bali to do a "survey" of possible targets for themselves.

Beforehand, they were told to learn what they could about Bali, a popular tourist island, on the Internet, and to get tourist brochures from travel agents and a tourist map.

The possible targets surveyed included McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Burger King and KFC restaurants, theaters, a golf course, tattoo parlors, art galleries and souvenir stalls.

As part of their surveillance, the men were told to "pay attention to clothes worn by local tourists" and what kind of day packs or shoulder bags they carried and whether they carried more than one.

The men did their reconnaissance, then reported back.

The next section includes a question-and-answer exchange between the men and their "field commander," presumably Mr. Azhari.

The men had concluded that the bombers should not use taxis to reach their targets because a taxi driver might help with the backpacks and be suspicious of their weight.

Rather, they should take a motorcycle taxi, which offers no opportunity for the driver to talk to the passenger. As for how to dress, they decided on black shirts, below the knee shorts or jeans and exercise shoes or sandals.

They decided that discos and nightclubs offered potential targets because most of the patrons were foreigners, and there was "no security to speak of, easy to enter."

But those sites were ultimately rejected, because backpacks would be suspicious at the time of night when the clubs got crowded, after 9 p.m.

That led the men to consider restaurants in Kuta, one of the most popular tourist districts, as well as the seafood restaurants on the beach at Jimbaran. "Of all the places," the document says, "this may be the easiest, God willing."

The team explained how the tables at Jimbaran were arranged in the sand, about a yard apart with three to seven diners at each. "Almost 80 percent of the patrons are white," they said. Others were Chinese or Japanese, they noted, using a derogatory term.

The best time would be around 7:30 p.m., when the restaurants were the most crowded and a backpack would not be suspicious.

The survey team came up with four options. Mr. Azhari and Mr. Noordin, it is presumed, chose the fourth: one restaurant at Kuta Square and two restaurants at Jimbaran.

Simultaneous attacks in two locations "will have greater effect than simultaneous attacks in one location," the document states.

There was a further reason for choosing the restaurants at Jimbaran: many of the patrons were businessmen. "The death of foreign businessmen will have a greater impact than of young people," the document says.

The backpack bombs were to be assembled by Mr. Azhari at his base in Java, and there was a serious concern about whether they could be taken on a bus to Bali without being detected. At the Bali port of Gilimanuk, where the vehicle ferry lands, passengers are required to get off and their identification cards are checked.

The backpacks with the bombs could be left on the bus — the police did not inspect baggage left on the bus, the team reported.

The team determined that the backpacks should not be mountaineering backpacks, but student day packs, to avoid suspicion. For that reason, Mr. Azhari constructed relatively light bombs weighing 10 to 12 kilograms, or 22 to 26 pounds.

He devised two elaborate detonating systems, which Section 4 of the report explains in detail, including schematic diagrams of the wiring system and drawings of a man with the wired backpack.

The first was "direct" and connected to the explosives in the backpack. The other was on "delay," for explosives in a fanny pack worn by the bombers.

The delay time was 30 seconds; the bomber would flip the switches for that one as he approached the restaurant. That way, if he were stopped by a guard and could not set off the main bomb, the fanny pack would still explode.

Mr. Azhari worried that the bombs might explode during the bus ride from the base to Bali, if the bus hit a bump or the backpack was jostled, or on the motorcycle from the boardinghouse to the targets. For that reason, he decided to use four switches as a precaution.

"It's important to make the bomb systems as simple as possible so the perpetrators don't get confused," the author wrote.

There was a green light, placed on the chest side of the left backpack strap so that it was visible only to the bomber, which would go on when the delay system had been an activated. A red light, similarly hidden on the right strap, would indicate that the main bomb was ready, and the bomber only had to flip the last switches. The order in which the switches were flipped did not matter.

In Section 5, "The Attack," the final movements of the suicide bombers are planned, in some cases to the second.

5:25 p.m. — Pack, check out of the boardinghouse and synchronize watches.

5:30 — Look for a motorcycle taxi to Legian Beach, in Kuta.

6:15 — Arrive near the Hard Rock Cafe and look for a place to pray.

6:35 — End evening prayers. Then the two groups split up.

7:21 — The man who is going to detonate his explosives in Kuta begins moving toward the restaurant, making sure the red and green lights are on.

7:33:04 — Arrive at the restaurant.

7:33:25 — Make sure the delay switches are all ready, and enter restaurant.

Meanwhile, the other two suicide bombers reach Jimbaran Beach at 6:50, loiter at a food stall until 7:30, then synchronize their watches again, and begin walking to the outdoor tables on the beach, one 45 yards behind the other. The first man walked into the table area, and the second did the same. Then, the document concludes its choreography.

7:34 — "ALLAH-U AKBAR!!!"

"We tried to minimize the impact on Muslims," the author explains in the final section, which was written after the attack. "Nevertheless, there were still Muslim victims killed and wounded."

The death toll was a relatively low number compared with the first Bali attack. Five of the 20 killed were foreigners: 4 Australians and a Japanese. Fifteen were Indonesians.