Headlines

Wives take the fall as
fugitive escapes

The arrest of Noordin M. Top's suspected third wife, Arina Rahmah, in her hometown of Cilacap has come as a shock for most of her neighbors and relatives.

Despite never having met Arina's husband since she tied the knot in 2005, none of her neighbors believed the 26-year-old teacher could have married the nation's mostwanted fugitive.

In the eyes of her relatives and neighbors, Arina is a nice, quiet and religious person, regularly attired in full-length black, with a veil that leaves only her eyes to open to public view.

After primary school in Cilacap, Arina was sent to study in Yogyakarta, rarely returning to Cilacap.

Once she was married, she spentmuch of her time teaching at her father's Islamic boarding school, Al-Muaddib, in Cilacap, as well as taking care of her two children -Khaula, 2, and Daud, 1 - believed to be Noordin's.

Following her arrest, Arina's father, Bahrudin "Baridin" Latif, 54, has also made the police's wanted list, suspected of being Noordin's trusted lieutenant.

Watim Suseno, chief of the village where Arina's family lives, said locals only knew she was married to a man named Ade Abdul Hakim, from Makassar.

"I asked Arina straight out about her husband, and she said he was away preaching," Watim told The Jakarta Post.

"Arina also told me she had never been to Makassar nor met her inlaws since she got married. I was a bit suspicious, because it's not normal to not have met your in-laws after four years of marriage.

"We never could have thought it was Noordin she was married to."

Neighbors said they had seen a man carrying Arina's children on a few occasions, but added he was too far to make out.

"We just saw him from afar ... he never left the house and we didn't know whether he was the husband," said Rumiyati, a neighbor of Arina's.

Aris Bunyamin, 40, Bahrudin's nephew, said people were not aware Arina had married, until Bahrudin announced it during a snap thanksgiving ceremony he threw at a mosque in the village.

"He announced he had already married her daughter off to someone from Makassar, and the party was a celebration of that ... but her husband wasn't even present at the party," Aris said.

"Bahrudin said he was out of town, preaching."

Despite sensing how odd it all was, no one questioned the issue further, Aris said, probably because Arina and her father came from a respected family.

"We just took Bahrudin at his word when he said Arina's husband was away preaching, until the police's Detachment 88 raided their home," he said.

Arina and her mother, Tuti Anggraini, 50, were arrested at Aris's house, where they had fl ed after their own house was raided by the police.

Both had just returned from Yogyakarta when the raid took place. Bahrudin had escaped earlier.

Since then, Detachment 88 has raided Bahrudin's house and school a couple of times to track him down, after discovering hidden explosive material in the backyard of his house.

Mahfud, an associate of the Al-Muaddib school, said all activities at the school had been halted for a week after the raid, with teachers and students worried about more raids to come.

Mahfud said he and Bahrudin started the school together and had been through many difficulties to keep it running.

He added he never thought Bahrudin would let himself get involved in a terrorist network.

"It's regrettable ... If I'd found out about that earlier, I would have advised him to stay away," Mahfud said.

"There's no justifi cation for terrorist acts ... the other teachers also agree."

He added Bahrudin had not seemed in the least bit suspicious in his daily activities at the school.

"He made some speeches at the mosque, about the Koran and Hadiths *words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad*; they all towed the usual line, but also mentioned the mistreatment and hardship experienced by fellow Muslim in United States, Iraq and Afghanistan," Mahfud said.

"We passed it off as just empathy for fellow Muslims during their ordeals."

Before marrying Arina, Noordin is known to have married Siti Rahmah, 35, and Munfi atun, 32.

Siti is the sister of Mohamad Rois, who is serving time in prison for his involvement in the Australian Embassy blast in 2004.

Noordin was believed to have stayed with her parents in 2004 in Rokan Hilir regency, Riau.

Neighbors said that during his stay, Noordin kept a low profile and never communicated with others.

Noordin and Siti have two children, and divorced after his identity was uncovered. Siti is now an illegal migrant worker in Malaysia.

Munfi atun, Noordin's second wife and a graduate of Brawijaya University's School of Agriculture, claimed that at the time she was not aware the man she had married in Pasuruan, East Java, in June 2004, was Noordin.

She said Noordin had introduced himself as Abdurrahman Aufi, from Jepara, Central Java.

Munfiatun, who also comes from Jepara, said she married Noordin a day after meeting him.

She told the police she had decided on a quick marriage because she considered him a good Muslim.

Munfiatun, who also wears a black dress and veil that cover her entirely save for the eyes, was in 2005 sentenced to three years in prison for her involvement in keeping Noordin concealed.

After her release in 2008, she disappeared.

Additional reporting by Agus Maryono and Indra Harsaputra

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