KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The whereabouts of the Sabahan wife of one of the most notorious South-east Asian terrorists Riduan Isamuddin, who is known by his nom de guerre Hambali, remain a mystery after her release from detention 16 years ago.
Residents in Beluran, a district about 300km from Sabah state capital Kota Kinabalu, said they had not seen Noraliza Abdullah @ Lee Yin Len since her release, although some claimed she returned briefly to visit her mother Salmah Abdullah, who passed away a few years ago.
Following the capture of Hambali in 2003, Noraliza was detained by police under the Internal Security Act for what is believed to be two years. Regional intelligence sources said Noraliza is likely to be in Indonesia with relatives of her husband.
Also missing since Hambali's arrest in 2003 is Noraliza's sister Noral Fadilah @ Lee Ah Lin, who was married to another Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) leader, Abu Yusuf @ Dandang Surman. Noraliza had gone to a religious school called Luqmanul Hakim in Ulu Tiram, Johor, after a group of Indonesian religious teachers came to Beluran and offered to sponsor her studies there. The school was shut down by Malaysian police after it was found to be involved with JI operatives.
Hambali was among three people formally indicted in the US over their role in the 2002 Bali bombings and 2003 Jakarta attack, the Pentagon said on Thursday (Jan 21). Dubbed the "Osama bin Laden of South-east Asia" by the US Central Intelligence Agency, Hambali was the leader of the Indonesian jihadist group Jemaah Islamiyah and believed to have been Al-Qaeda's top representative in the region.
In an interview with The Star following the arrest of her daughter in 2003, Salmah described Hambali as the "perfect son-in-law" and was shocked to hear of his involvement in terror activities. He married Noraliza after they met in Johor.Salmah described Hambali as a simple, caring and religious son-in-law who liked ketam bakar (baked crabs) during the interview.
"He is the perfect family man. He is incapable of doing wrong, " Salmah said, adding that Hambali never liked them watching entertainment programmes on television, claiming that such shows corrupted the mind.
Noraliza returned with Hambali to Beluran for "a holiday" while Salmah went on to live with them for three years at their Banting home in Selangor in the 1990s. Hambali was widely suspected to use visits to his wife's family district close to Sandakan to make clandestine trips to southern Philippines and Indonesia.