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Cult Leader Had Martyr Dreams

July 7, 2000

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ At home, he was the beloved son. But as a teen-ager meditating on the Koran in the jungles of northern Malaysia, Mohamed Amin Mohamed Razali harbored a grander vision of martyrdom and holy war.

After triggering Malaysia’s biggest security crisis in years, the former army private is likely to see only a part of his dreams fulfilled. He could face a death sentence.

A four-day standoff between armed men of his Al-Ma’unah cult and the Malaysian army ended Thursday in the dense forests of Perak state when 27 gunmen surrendered to Malaysian troops after having tortured and killed two of their four hostages.

Amin, 30, was the last to surrender. Just before doing so he grabbed local army commander Lt. Gen Zaini Said by his shirt and tried to shoot him at point-blank range. The general flicked the barrel of Amin’s assault rifle, and bullet hit one of the militants. He later died.

Members of the Al-Ma’unah, or Brotherhood of Inner Power, Islamic cult had in the preceding days plundered two heavily-fortified armories Sunday by impersonating military officers and making off with more than 100 assault rifles, grenade launchers and light machine guns. Then they hid in the jungles, seemingly unsure what to do after their spectacular robbery.

The violence and savagery has shocked the rural family who thought they had raised a pious and obedient child.

Amin grew up mostly in Sauk, a small town of 5,000 surrounded by forests and fruit orchards. Their home was sparse and simple _ floor mats to sit on, chicken and cats scrambling in the yard. No television set or sofas.

His father, Razali Mat Hussin, 65, said as a youngster, Amin was always his mother’s baby.

His mother wept throughout the night after Thursday’s arrests, grieving for her son, who may now be prosecuted for murder and be executed by hanging.

``She was crying all night. She was screaming his name,″ said Amin’s brother, Mohamed Nasir Mohamed Razali, 17.

Amin’s elder brother, Mohamed Othman Mohamed Razali, was quoted in Friday’s Utusan Malaysia daily as saying his brother always had a fanatical streak.

Amin would be fixed with a strange intensity whenever they studied the Koran together, he said.

``He never told me, but from his reaction, I could see that he aspired to be a martyr,″ Othman said.

Authorities say Amin had been discharged from the army for a drug-related offense and had served 18 months in prison until 1998. But his family doesn’t mention it.

If they would have been able to log on to their son’s Web site, events of this week may not have surprised them.

``Jihad is our way! Islam will be victorious!″ is splashed in scarlet against a white background on the home page. ``God is great! God is great! God is great!″

``Are you willing to see Muslims being trampled on and oppressed?″ said the site, which has more than doubled its hit rate to more than 18,000 in one day. ``If not, what are you willing to do to prevent it?″

The Al-Ma’unah, with a sizable number of ex-military men, claims a membership of 1,000 worldwide. It recommends martial arts training and obedience to Islamic teaching.

It describes itself as a non-governmental organization formed in September 1998, the month political turmoil erupted in Malaysia following the sacking and arrest of popular deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Images on the Web site show group members practicing rituals that include being burned by fire, scalded by boiling oil and having tree trunks hurled on their chests.

The site says that proponents of the Al-Ma’unah adhere to the teachings of the Koran and a Muslim cleric named Amin Razali who, it claims, received enlightenment after spending five years studying paranormal sciences in a hut in Indonesia.

On Friday, as the military pulled out of Sauk, trucks rumbling by Amin’s childhood home, his parents walked slowly toward a durian orchard, close to where the standoff had occurred.

``We never knew he would turn out this way. This is fated,″ Nasir said, turning away from his parents.

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