Born into a poor Indonesian family, Hambali is believed to be a product of the al Mukmin Islamic school co-founded by Bashir. He was radicalized during the 1970s and '80s, when then-President Suharto severely repressed Islamic radicals seeking to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia.
Like several other Indonesian Islamists, Hambali fled to neighboring Malaysia during Suharto's reign. Intelligence sources say Hambali traveled to Afghanistan during the mujahedeen's struggle against the Soviet occupation, where he is believed to have established links with international militant Islamic networks.
Following Suharto's ouster in 1998, Hambali returned to Indonesia, where al Mukmin functioned as the spiritual center of a growing group of radicalized Muslim youth.
In addition to Indonesia, he is wanted in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines in connection with a series of bomb attacks in the last two years.