Though hardly mentioned by the media nowadays, al Qaeda had set-up a global network long before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Richard Clarke told PBS' Frontline that by the end of 2000 al Qaeda had a presence "in probably between 50-60 countries [and] that they had trained thousands, perhaps over 10,000 terrorists at the camps in Afghanistan." Many ended up in Southeast Asia.
From the Associated Press:
Official Ties al-Qaida to Indonesia Terror
By ZAKKI HAKIM, Tue Feb 28, 12:23 PM ET
The al-Qaida terror network helped fund suicide bombings in Indonesia over the past four years through a courier system set up by the reputed mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, a senior police official said Tuesday.
Former al-Qaida No. 3 Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, was personally involved in setting up the courier system, in which money was carried from Thailand to Malaysia and finally to Indonesia's Sumatra island, said Col. Petrus Reinhard Golose of Indonesia's counterterrorism task force.
Golose said the money was used to help the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah launch attacks in the world's most populous Muslim country from 2002-2005.
Jemaah Islamiyah is blamed for the 2002 nightclub attacks on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, attacks in the capital Jakarta in 2003 and 2004 that together killed 21, and triple suicide bombings on Bali in October that killed 20.
Indonesian authorities have claimed for years that al-Qaida helped finance the terror network, but never before provided the level of detail given by Golose, who was directly involved in the investigations of the bombings.
Golose said several members of Jemaah Islamiyah met directly with bin Laden in Afghanistan and signed agreements with him before launching the attacks, but he did not elaborate. He also did not say from where the al-Qaida funds originated or the nationalities of the couriers.
"Thirty thousand U.S. dollars was sent for the first Bali bombing," Golose said, adding that "tens of thousands of dollars" was sent for the 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta.
Some of the leftover cash was used for the 2004 attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, he said. He said he was uncertain how much al-Qaida money was used for the latest attack on Bali, targeting three crowded restaurants.
Jemaah Islamiyah, which has roots back to the 1980s, is believed to be fighting for an Islamic state across Southeast Asia. It has been hard hit by a regionwide crackdown in the last four years, resulting in at least 200 arrests, including Abu Bakar Bashir, a Muslim cleric who allegedly helped co-found the terror network.
Golose said Indonesian militant Abu Dujana has replaced Bashir, who is eligible for release from prison in June, as Jemaah Islamiyah's top leader. Dujana's whereabouts are not known.