Mosque Bomber’s Motive a Mystery

The Jakarta Globe

Farouk Arnza & Elisabeth Oktofani

Condemnation of Friday’s suicide bombing in Cirebon, the first such attack inside a mosque in this country, came quickly from all corners of society — but answers have been scarce.


The blast, which took place during Friday prayers at the Cirebon Police’s compound in West Java, left 26 people injured, including policemen and intelligence officers.

Only the suicide bomber perished after he detonated what police sources described as a low-level explosive filled with nails and shrapnel.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono strongly condemned the terrorist bombing and ordered law- enforcement agencies to find out who was responsible, according to Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.
West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan decried the attack as a human rights violation that had disrupted peace in the province.

In a statement on Friday, the Maarif Institute, a think tank, said it was a “heinous act that hurt Muslims,” while the head of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) in West Java, K.H. Hafidz Utsman, called it an attempt to pit people against each other.

Radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, facing the death penalty for terrorism-related charges, said the assailant was a kafir, or infidel, according to his personal assistant, Hasyim Abdullah. “It’s haram [forbidden] to bomb a mosque. Only kafir do that,” Hasyim said, quoting Bashir.

The blast is the first major terrorist attack in the country since the July 2009 hotel bombings in Jakarta.

The attack — which shocked many due to its unusual locale — came in the wake of the arrests of suspected Muslim extremists, as well as a string of book-bomb scares last month.

“This has never happened before in Indonesia. It’s outrageous,” said Mardigu Prasantyo, a terror analyst at Narapatih Center. “This is much more dangerous than previous attacks in the country [because] we never thought a mosque would be a target.”

In 1999, a bomb exploded in the basement of the country’s largest mosque, the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta. Three were injured, but it was not a suicide bombing.

Though officials said it was too early to speculate on who was behind Friday’s attack, an antiterror police source said it could be linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network or Negara Islam Indonesia, a group seeking to establish an Shariah state.

“From our initial analysis, we suspect that the group behind this could be related to the NII movement that has been radicalized by the JI,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Two suspected terrorists killed in a police raid following the 2009 bombings, Zaifuddin Zuhri and Ibrohim, hailed from Cirebon and were both known as NII activists, the source added.

However, military expert Andi Widjajanto said targeting a mosque ran counter to NII and JI ideology. “It appears that the target is the National Police, similar to the bicycle bomb,” he said, referring to last year’s bombing attempt in Kalimalang, Bekasi.

Noor Huda Ismail, a security analyst, did not rule out JI or NII involvement, saying they could have been targeting a dhirar mosque, which he said deviate from Islamic teachings and shelter hypocrites. He also said the Al Qaeda-style attack appeared to be carried out by an amateur.

Additional reporting from Fidelis Satriastanti, Yuli Krisna & AFP

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