Terror expert: More attacks likely in Indonesia as radicals compete for ISIS leadership

The report from the Institute for Policy Analysis and Conflict also says the Jakarta attacks were not planned by Bahrun Naim, who police originally alleged as the mastermind of the attacks

Max Stainkamph

Published: 12:23 AM February 3, 2016

Updated: 8:58 AM February 3, 2016

NOT FROM SYRIA. A report says the Jakarta attacks were not organized from Syria. Photo by Natashya Gutierrez

JAKARTA, Indonesia – More terrorist attacks are “likely” in Indonesia as prospective leaders attempt to establish their authority over Islamic extremists in the country.

In a report released Monday, February 1, Sidney Jones, Director of the Institute for Policy Analysis and Conflict (IPAC), has said the Jakarta bombings on January 14 “were now known to be locally organized – not directed from Syria as first thought.”

She said this “almost instantly resulted in instructions from a Syria-based leader to his followers to do one-better,” signaling the possible start of a dangerous game of one-upmanship.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken responsibility for the Jakarta bombings, which killed 4 civilians and 4 attackers – although the group has not had that big of an influence in Indonesia before the attacks.

This, despite the country having the largest Muslim population in the world. Few are radicalized in Indonesia due to a democratic government, a secular constitution and little internal conflict.

However, an estimated 500 Indonesians have left Indonesia to fight for ISIS and its affiliates in the Middle East.

Leadership tensions

The IPAC report also mentioned tension over leadership of ISIS in Southeast Asia, adding that 3 key players in Syria are attempting to gain a larger power base in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.

The report said Abu Ibrahim, who is known as Bahrumsyah, Salim Mubarok, known as Abu Jandel and Bahrun Naim who police originally tagged as being behind the Jakarta attacks, are competing with each other “to encourage their contacts in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to undertake attacks against their enemies."

The 3, said the report, are providing various funding, guidance and approval from Syria in order to carry out attacks.  

But the recent Jakarta attacks, according to the report, were organized and carried out by a local Indonesian group called Partisians of the Caliphate (Jamaar Anshar Khalifah, or JAK), a group led from prison by prominent ISIS supporter Aman Adburrahman.

JAK has a “small but nationwide” following, IPAC said, and the group is aligned with Katibah Masyaariq (Forces of the East), a Syria-based Indonesian unit led by Abu Jandal.

Jandal is not thought to have been involved in the attacks, but many questions still remain about how the attacks were funded – if the funds reached the group through Syria or through Australia – although Australian ambassador to Indonesia Paul Grigson has told Rappler there is no link between Australia and the recent attacks.

Not Naim

The bombings in Jakarta were originally thought to have been organized and funded from Syria by Bahrun Naim, but the report says Naim is trying to remain neutral between Kabitah Masyaariq – Jandal’s group – and Katibah Nusantara (Forces of the Archipelago), a group of fighters in Syria from Malaysia and Indonesia.

The report said Katibah Nusantara, which is under the command of Bahrumsyah, was taken by surprise by the Jakarta attacks. (READ: What we know about Bahrun Naim)

Bahrumsyah “immediately ordered one of his men in Indonesia to do something similar,” the report said, but the would-be perpetrator was arrested. However, many like him remain at large.

In an exclusive report by Rappler, a recording of a man's voice allegedly of Bahrun Naim, denied being behind the attacks.

Game changer

Leadership tensions in Syria could mean more resourses could be poured into Indonesia, potentially making terrorist attacks not just more frequent, but more deadly.

Funding from Syria could allow better weapons being brought into Indonesia, which the IPAC report said could increase casualties.

“Had the gunmen on January 14 been carrying assault rifles, for example, the death toll would have been larger,” it said. (READ: Jakarta attacks: Did other terrorists escape?)

Planning and organization have also been raised as a “game changer." The report said since the death of Marriot Hotel Bombings leader Noordin Top, “no terrorist has had the discipline or planning skills to successfully implement a big attack.”

This is especially worrying if instructors are sent from Syria to Indonesia. The bombers in the Jakarta attacks are said to have made bombs from online, and had little to no combat experience but still managed to kill 4 in a botched attack.

What can be done?

The Indonesian government has clamped down on ISIS supporting websites and Twitter accounts, but it also needs stronger anti-terrorism legislation. (READ: 4 things you need to know about ISIS in Indonesia)

IPAC’s Sidney Jones said “Indonesian police have done good work in foiling several other terrorism attempts, but this one-upmanship among pro-ISIS leaders has suddenly made their task much tougher.”

The Indonesian prison system has been cited as one key area to “urgently” clamp down on, as prisons are “where plots are hatched, travel arranged and ISIS supporters recruited.”

Indonesia needs “more systematic training of prison personnel tasked with direct supervision of extremist inmates,” she said. – Rappler.com