Hambali invisioned a large Islamic caliphate across Southeast Asia. His planned caliphate would include Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, and Thailand. It would have created a large Islamic superpower. The CIA World Factbook stated that Hambali's state would have had 420 million people. The United States population, which numbers in 280 million, is less than about three quarters of the population of Hambali's envisioned state. The amount of men that are able to be in the military would have numbered about 75 million.
Hambali's state would also have a strangle-hold over the South China Sea shipping lanes which are a gateway between parts of Asia and the Indian Ocean. This would also give the state a significant hold in air-space. This would affect trade between India, Africa, and Australia.
Riduan Isamuddin was born Encep Nurjaman in the rice belt of Pamokolan, a small town in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia. He was the son of a peasant farmer, and was the second of eleven children. He got involved with Jemaah Islamiah as a teenager. He was a very studious student at his Islamic high school, Al-I’anah. He travelled to Afghanistan in the 1983 to fight the Soviet Union during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Over his three year course of being a mujahideen, which lasted from 1987 to 1990, he fought the Soviets and met Osama Bin Laden. Most of his friends and family back home did not know what he was doing.
In Malaysia, he met the two co-founders of JI, Abdullah Sungkar and Abubakar Ba'asyir, who fled Indonesia in 1985. Nurjaman internationalized the terrorist groups' activities. Nurjaman then took a new name in his permanent residence permit. He now was Riduan Isamuddin. The three of them were in a housing compound in Kampung Sungai Manggis, Banting, Selangor.
The two co-founders sent their students to "study" in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The students actually fought the Soviets until the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan. A woman named Noralwizah Lee Abdullah had gone to Malaysia for religious schooling. She secretly married Isamuddin after meeting him at the Luqmanul Hakiem School in Ulu Tiram, Johor. The school was founded by Sungkar and Ba'asyir.
At first, Isamuddin struggled to make a living for his family. He switched from selling kebabs to patenting medicines. He soon disappeared from his home for weeks on end, and he recieved many visitors at home. He eventually came to own a red Proton hatchback and several cell phones. Investigators say that many calls on those cell phones were made to Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden's brother in law, who had arrived back in Manila, Philippines in 1991.
After Arab visitors gave his family lots of money, he founded a shell company, Konsojaya, in June 1994. The company claimed to be an "import-export" company that traded palm oil from Malaysia to Afghanistan, but was more or less a front company for terrorism. Wali Khan Amin Shah, who would become the financier of Operation Bojinka, was one of the members of the board of directors of Konsojaya. The company provided financial assistance to the project until it was discovered by investigators on a laptop computer after an apartment fire on January 5, 1995. Shah was arrested in the Philippines but he escaped on a short order. Shah would get arrested in Malaysia in December 1995. Both Shah and mastermind Ramzi Yousef, who escaped the Philippines but got arrested in Lahore, Pakistan, were extradited to the United States. They both were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for participating in the project.
Hambali goes underground
Hambali's company was narrowly overlooked by the investigators, so he wasn't as ambitious for the moment. He decided to preach, raise money, and recruit for his cause. He went underground in 2000 and started a wave of church-bomings in Indonesia. He always had a "hands-on" technique. He met his foot soldiers and came to them "with detailed plans, plenty of cash and two of his own bombmakers." He always vanished before the bombing commenced. Meanwhile, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, Abu Bakr Bashir, was teaching jihad at his schools and denying terrorist links.
In January 2000, he attended the 2000 Al Qaeda Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He planned and made his meeting with two September 11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi during the summit. The meeting was videotaped by the CIA and Malaysian authorities. Hambali also provided money and documents to Zacarias Moussaoui in October of that year.
After the Bali nightclub bombing, which killed 202 people, more focus from the United States was on Hambali. Prior to that attack, the Indonesian government didn't do very much to deal with terrorism. After the attack occurred, Abu Bakr Bashir was arrested and the government started to crack down on Jemaah Islamiah. He became wanted for the bombings of several churches in the reason, as well as the Bali bombing and a failed plot on several targets in Singapore.
The end of the road
Hambali used a series of safe-houses throughout Southeast Asia, especially Thailand and Cambodia to move around. While he was in Ayutthaya, Thailand, 75 kilometers north of Bangkok, he was planning a terrorist attack against the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (APEC) in Bangkok on October 2003. The meeting brought together twenty-one leaders, including George W. Bush, the United States President. Hambali had used a false Spanish passport to enter Thailand while his wife used her Malaysian passport.
Thai police found him as part of a joint operation between the Thai police and the CIA on August 11, 2003. The twenty uniformed and undercover police smashed down the door to his one bedroom apartment in Ayutthaya, and arrested him and and 33-year old Noralwizah Lee Abdullah, a Chinese Malaysian who was considered to be his wife. Hambali was wearing a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, a baseball cap, and a pair of sunglasses. Police also seized explosives and firearms in the property. It marked the end of a 20-month hunt for Hambali, who was 37 years of age when he was captured.
Hambali is now imprisoned in a secret location and in U.S. custody. His wife is now in Malaysian custody. The United States is reluctant to give Hambali to Indonesia after the latter imposed a lenient sentence on Bashir. The United States said that they would eventually give up Hambali to the Indonesian government.
Hambali is wanted in the Philippines for the transfer of explosives on Filipino soil in an attempt to take them to Singapore.