Indonesian ex-policeman claims al Qaeda link

Mohammed Sofyan Tsauri had quit police force in 2008 to become a terrorist.

Jakarta: An Indonesian police officer who quit the force to become a terrorist said on Thursday he was affiliated to al Qaeda and had trained about 170 militants to wage jihad, or "holy war".

Mohammed Sofyan Tsauri, 34, made the confession to reporters as he appeared at a Jakarta court for the start of his trial on terrorism-related charges.

"I`m affiliated with al Qaeda and in contact with Abu Sayyaf," he said, referring to Osama bin Laden`s network and a Philippines-based Islamist militant outfit.

"I became a terrorist after I quit the police (in 2008)... What I`ve done isn`t an act of terror, it`s an obligatory religious activity ordered by God."

Tsauri, alias Aby Ayyash, was arrested earlier this year as part of a sweep of Islamist militants linked to a training camp that was discovered in February in Aceh province.

The camp was under the command of Indonesian terror mastermind Dulmatin, one of the architects of the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people. Dulmatin was killed by police in March.

The former police officer could face the death sentence if convicted of charges including supplying weapons for terrorist acts.