JAKARTA – He was the terrorist leader who was given the final nod to carry out the devastating Bali nightclub bombings in 2002 that killed 202 people, but when judgment day arrived this week, Zulkarnen was handed a life sentence sought by prosecutors Instead of imprisonment, he was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment. ,
As the head of the military wing of the extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the Afghan war veteran was on the run for 15 years, before being caught in Sumatra in late 2020, in the worst terrorist outrage since 9/11. 18 years later. Attacks in the United States.
Although the 59-year-old former biology student is the last person directly involved in the conspiracy to face prosecution, the East Jakarta District Court dismissed charges related to the bombing as the statute of limitations had expired.
Instead, despite his alleged involvement in subsequent attacks, he was less charged with aiding and abetting terrorism by lending money to a terrorist organization, harboring a terrorist suspect, and hiding information about an act of terror. was thrown in jail.
Zulkarnen did not participate in the details of the bombs’ collection or operation, but he met first with Amrozi Noorhasim, Huda bin Abdul Haq and Imam Samudra, three men killed for the crime in 2008, and in a post-explosion assessment. .
He appears to have taken the responsibility of sanctioning the attack, along with then JI operations chief Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali, who is still one of the 39 terrorist captives at Guantanamo Bay, and the group’s alleged founder, Abu Bakr Bassier. shared.
“Basier was contacted and told there was some planning going on,” says terrorism expert Sydney Jones. “He said ‘do what you need to do,’ which was interpreted as a sign of his acceptance.”
Now 82, the extremist cleric was jailed for five years in 2005 for his role in the bombings that killed 88 Australian tourists. But his sentence was overturned on appeal to the Australian government and the families of the victims.
In 2011, Basir was sentenced to 15 years in prison for financing terrorist training camps in the northern province of Aceh in Sumatra; He was finally released in January 2020 after receiving the judicial system’s customary exemption for good behavior.
Zulkarnen, whose legal name is Aris Sumarsono, was also suspected of playing a role in the 2003 and 2009 Marriott Hotel suicide bombings in Jakarta that killed 21 people, and the 2005 Bali explosions in Kuta and the nearby Jimbaran seafood bar. 23 people were killed in ,
Intelligence sources at the time said they had some suspicion that Zulkarnen was behind the attacks that shore up Jakarta and Bali, and tightened new security measures in all hotels and public buildings, which continue to this day.
The perpetrators of those attacks, Malaysian bomb-maker Azhari bin Hussein, 47, and Noordin Mohamed Top, 41, quickly became the target of an intense search across the length of Java.
Azhari, 47, was killed in November 2005 during a siege of his mountain base near Malang, East Java. Four years later, Noordin, 41, and three other terrorists blew themselves up after being surrounded in a village near the central Java city of Solo.
It is still unclear how Zulkarnen managed to divert the attention of the Detachment 88 counter-terrorism unit for so long. Formed with US and Australian aid after the 2002 tragedy, it has continued to corner terrorists during the coronavirus pandemic.
Zulkarnen was eventually captured after police tracked down the man hiding fellow fugitive Upik Lavanga, wanted to make suicide bombers the explosive devices used to kill nine people at the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in July 2009 Was.
Pushed into the background by a concerted government action and the rise of Islamic State (ISIS), Jones says JI continues to survive not as a terrorist organization but as a culture that has family roots in the Darul Islam movement. I go back. 1950s.
Followers intermarry, their children attend the same school, they organize sports and other social events – and over the past five years they have participated in political demonstrations aimed at advancing the cause of an Islamic state. work.
This was G’s original aim, but after Osama bin Laden established contacts with al-Qaeda, the ultimate goal changed to fighting for a caliphate in Southeast Asia, which also appealed to extremists in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. Will do
However it did not last long. Then came ISIS, an organization the JI was strongly opposed to, but whose progress in Iraq and Syria led JI leaders to conclude that the only reasonable goal was a universal caliphate, of which an Islamic state in Indonesia could eventually be part.
Jones says Indonesian terrorists also came to the conclusion that violence was not the way to achieve their objective, evidenced by the fact that the only terrorist incident in recent years was the ISIS-inspired Surabaya church bombing in 2018.
“They (JI) decided what needs to be done to think about how to gain power in Indonesia,” she says. “It soon became clear that the more effective way, and they looked to the organizations above as a model, was to work in alliance with the division of labor and use local elections and local rules to make the country more Had to move towards Sharia-influenced politics.”
In addition, the JI leadership decided that it would have to be prepared to take advantage of any political instability, even sending followers to Syria for military training for the possibility of armed intervention if the country descended into chaos. would send.
During the 2019 presidential election campaign, JI supporters were given the green light to join forces with protesters protesting alleged voting irregularities in President Joko Widodo’s victory over opposition leader Prabowo Subianto, who was later appointed defense minister. Gone.
The future of JI as a viable security threat is unclear. Although it is an organization that has always survived and revived, the Widodo government’s latest action has been deeper and broader than before.
“It’s a culture that isn’t going to end anytime soon,” Jones says, pointing to the close family ties. “What could happen is that a new organization appears with a new name, but it will still be JI.”