Terrorists increasingly use web for recruitment

Khabar Southeast Asia

Terrorists increasingly use web for recruitment

For terror groups, the Internet has become a useful tool to recruit would-be jihadists. The Indonesian authorities are doing their best to keep pace.

Technological advancements have enabled terrorists to wage online propaganda campaigns through “hundreds” of jihad-themed websites, experts warn.

Terrorists’ use of the Internet to spread their messages began in 2002 when Imam Samudra claimed responsibility for the Bali bombings via istimata.com, according to Noor Huda Ismail, executive director of the International Institute for Peace Building.

Ten years later, “there are hundreds of Internet sites” used to spread jihadist propaganda in Indonesia, run by groups and individuals, Noor Huda told Khabar Southeast Asia.

“There are also some individuals who manage several websites at one time,” he said. “They usually use social media and/or free blog hosting such as Facebook or Blogpot to post information or ideas about jihad.”

He said the Internet is one of the most effective ways for extremists to deliver their messages and find like-minded people.

Jakarta-based journalist Solahudin told Khabar that those websites contain information about jihad and Islam in general, and therefore tend to be attractive to their readers and followers.

One of the most popular topics on such sites, he said, is how to make a bomb from regular kitchen items.

“They can easily find out how to make bombs cheaply. They can purchase the ingredients such as match powder and also sugar without being noticed,” he said. “That was actually what happened in Umar Bin Khattab boarding school in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara. They assembled a bomb with knowledge gained from the Internet.”

The principal of the school was sentenced to 17 years in jail for preaching militant jihad and teaching his students to make bombs after a bomb exploded at the school on July 11, 2011, killing one person.

A Tangerang-based Islamic news portal, arrahmah.com, which provides information about jihad, published a letter on October 15th challenging Detachment 88 to an open fight.

According to the website, the letter was written by Abu Wardah, alias Santoso, the self-styled “Commander of Mujahideen in Eastern Indonesia,” who is on the police most wanted list.

The letter, written in Indonesian, Arabic and English, was first released by al-busyro.org, a site which also contains updates on jihad preparation in Poso and can only be accessed by members.

“In order to be a member with those kinds of websites, a person will need a recommendation from another member. Other than that, the website opens registration during certain periods of time,” Noor Huda said. “They do not want the information to be accessed freely.”

In 2006, Detachment 88 arrested three men for helping create and maintain anshar.net on the order of Noordin M. Top, a bomb-maker killed in 2009, with the purpose of spreading jihad propaganda.

Abdul Aziz, a high school computer teacher who designed the site, was sentenced to 10 years in prison that same year. Agung Prabowo was given three years in 2007 for purchasing the domain name anshar.net and a hosting account, while Agung Setyadi was sentenced to six years for sending a laptop to Imam Samudra, who was jailed in Bali at the time.

The Ministry of Communication and Information claims it has been blocking many websites since electronic transaction and information regulations were set up in 2008.

“Unlike before, when we only blocked websites on request, we now have a system which automatically blocks any website that contains negative stuff, including pornography and radicalism,” Gatot Dewa Broto, a spokesman for the ministry, told Khabar.

However, Gatot said, the ministry faces several obstacles in its efforts to block such websites, including limited bandwidth and human resources.

“If we block all the websites, it would hamper the public’s Internet access and we’d rather avoid that,” he said. “Secondly, we lack enough people who can keep monitoring the websites which contain negative material. It needs to be understood that we cannot just block any website based on like and dislike; it requires verification.”

Indonesia has 220 Internet service providers, he said; monitoring them is a big job.

“With all of these problems, we keep trying to improve,” he said.

Depok bomb blast aborts sinister plans

Khabar Southeast Asia

Depok bomb blast aborts sinister plans

Residents of Depok, West Java watch on Sunday (September 9th) as police investigate the scene of a bomb blast the night before. The explosion injured at least six people, including a man suspected of making the bomb. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar]

The men exposed by an accidental bomb blast in Depok, West Java were planning acts of terrorism, police say.

One surrendered at a police station, wearing a suicide belt and pining for his family. Another lies in a police hospital, unrecognisable, burns covering 70% of his body.

Just prior to an explosion at 9:30 pm Saturday (September 8th), the two men met at a house in Beji, Depok that advertised itself as an orphanage but turned out to be a bomb factory.

The blast at the so-called Pondok Bidara Orphanage Foundation injured at least six people, most of them neighbours who lived just behind the bomb site.

The victims are Nanut Triaman (62), Bagus Kuncoro (20), Taufik (32), Wulandari (27), Fajruddin (27), and a man originally identified only as Mr X because the severity of his injuries made immediate identification impossible.

Suspected of being a bomb maker, Mr X was brought to the Kramat Jati Police Hospital in East Jakarta for intensive treatment, according to Boy Rafli Amar, the spokesman for the Indonesian National Police.

“His right hand was damaged badly. His neck was hit by some kind of hard object, and his face has been badly burned,” he told reporters Sunday (September 9th) in Jakarta.

After the explosion, neighbours saw two men escape by motorcycle. “We’re monitoring hospitals and clinics because one of them is believed to have suffered burns,” Boy said. “We strongly believe that the suspects were involved in assembling the bomb.”

Police did not have to wait long to nab one of the fugitives. At around 5:30 on Sunday (September 9th), 32-year-old Muhammad Toriq – also spelled Toriq in some reports — turned himself in at Tambora police office in West Jakarta.

An explosives belt was strapped to his body, which he handed to police, along with a gun and ammunition, Jakarta police spokesman Col. Rikwanto said.

“He turned himself in because he missed his family,” Rikwanto said, according to The Jakarta Globe.

Planned suicide attack

Prior to his surrender, Thorik had considered blowing himself up at a police office or a Buddhist centre, Boy later told reporters in an update on the unfolding events.

According to Boy, the suspect planned to detonate a suicide bomb at one of four potential targets: Depok Mobil Brigade (Brimob) headquarters, the National Police Detachment 88 office in Jakarta, a police building in Salemba, Central Jakarta, or a Buddhist centre. The planned attack was a deluded attempt at revenge for the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

Thorik had escaped from the police twice before he surrendered. He first escaped on September 5th after a neighbour reported smoke coming from his house in Tambora, West Jakarta.

The smoke turned out to be a cloud of explosive material that had accidently spilled. When police arrived at the house, Thorik was gone, but they took his mother Iyot, 71, his wife Sri Haryani, and his three-year-old son Mohammad Gabriel to the police station.

Thorik was at the “orphanage” in Depok when the bomb exploded but fled before police arrived.

Earlier, police thought that the critically injured man was Thoriq. But his identity has since been confirmed as Anwar, a relative of suspected militant Arif Hidayat who was arrested Monday (September 10th) in Bojonggede, Bogor, West Java, according to media reports.

A deadly “orphanage”

Based on the severity of his injuries, police think Anwar was making the bomb, perhaps even holding it, when the explosion occurred.

From the scene, police also seized three grenades, six pipes filled with explosive material, one Beretta pistol, homemade guns, small-arms ammunition, 7kg of potassium chlorate, nails, five 9-volt batteries, detonators, cables, and electronic switches.

Police also found some books related to terrorism and a goodbye letter at the scene.

A banner with the words Pondok Bidara Orphanage Foundation hung from the front of the building. Another sign indicated the place was an alternative “cupping therapy” clinic. However, local residents never saw any patients or orphans.

According to Joko, 60, a neighbourhood drinks seller, the person who rented the room had been living there since last month.

“I have never seen any activities because the gate was always locked. I tried to see the person to ask for the monthly rent, but I could not enter,” said Nurhassanah, 37, a community leader whose husband heads the neighbourhood watch (Rukun Tetangga/RT).

Boy said police had been monitoring activity at the house. It is not new for terrorists to use a business front to mask criminal activities, he said.

“Legitimate business activities have been used by terror suspects in many cases. In Wonosobo, for instance, they used their place to sell clothes,” he explained.

Boy said that people need to be aware of newcomers in their neighbourhoods because many terror suspects associate with the community and carry out normal activities.

“It is very important for the community chief to ask for and collect a copy of the identity card from new residents in their community,” he said.

Islamist vigilantes lead teens into trouble

Khabar Southeast Asia

Islamist vigilantes lead teens into trouble

A July 29th police notice posted on the door of Café de’Most bans it from operating based on local laws governing entertainment venues during Ramadan. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar]

A hardline group that raided a bar in late July recruited local teens for the illegal attack. Two of them now face prison time.

Jakarta residents are applauding police for arresting members of a hardline group that raided a bar for serving alcohol during Ramadan, and enlisted teenagers for the illegal vigilante attack.

About 150 members of the Prophet’s Defender Council (Majelis Pembela Rasulullah, or MPR) swarmed into Cafe’ de’Most in South Jakarta late on July 28th and ransacked it, shattering windows, breaking bottles, and assaulting employees.

Police apprehended the group as they left the club on motorbikes, and seized a machete, a sickle, four samurai swords, a golf club and four wooden poles, as well as musical instruments stolen from the bar.

“We arrested 62 people. But we released 39 juveniles without charges because they were not directly involved in attacking the bar,” South Jakarta police chief, Senior Commander Imam Sugianto, told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Among the 23 not released were two juveniles who were carrying a sickle and a machete, Imam said.

“They could face up to six years in prison under the Emergency Law No 12, 1951 for carrying weapons, and two and half years for destroying private property,” he said. Also arrested was MPR’s 29-year-old leader, Habib Bahar bin Smith, who organised the attack and was able to influence minors to take part in it, according to Imam.

Bahar and another adult identified only as S.Y. have been charged with the same offenses as the teenagers but face up to 12 years in jail terms because they are adults.

The remaining suspects were charged with aggravated assault on several bar employees and could face up to five and a half years in prison.

Mia Trisnawati, a waitress at a bar in South Jakarta, was happy to hear it.

“I have always been afraid to work during the fasting month because a number of hardline groups have threatened bars and night clubs,” Mia told Khabar.

“But I think that the police have done something different to protect their citizens by arresting the hardline group that acted as if they were the police with their raid,” Mia said

Vigilante organisations, notably the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI), say they are acting to protect Islam, but critics say their tactics are violent, illegal and also redundant, as authorities have already moved to limit the activities and operational hours of nightclubs and other entertainment venues during Ramadan.

In fact, police shut down Café de’ Most on July 29th because it was selling alcohol during Ramadan in violation of local regulations.

The involvement of minors in the raid is a cause for special concern. Arist Merdeka Sirait, Chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection, said parents and officials must declare a campaign against violence in society and make efforts to deter teenager involvement.

“Basically, teenagers tend to copy their idol’s behaviour. Therefore, it is very important for us, parents, teachers, government and religious leaders, to show how to live in peace and omit violence from daily life,” he told Khabar.


Jazz stars bring their talents to Jakarta mosque

Khabar Southeast Asia

Jazz stars bring their talents to Jakarta mosque

Producers of the Ramadan Jazz Festival say music can be a form of preaching, reaching out to young people, and showing them that mosques can be cool.

For two nights in late July, the Cut Meutia Mosque compound in Jakarta rang with swinging sounds as Indonesian jazz musicians and groups entertained thousands at the second annual Ramadan Jazz Festival.

“We want to send a message to Muslim youth that the mosque is actually a cool place for Muslim youth to hang out,” said Agus Setiawan of Jakarta-based jazz promoters Warta Jazz, which produced the festival together with the Cut Meutia Mosque Islamic Youth Association (RICMA).

“The mosque is actually not only a worship place. It is also a place to socialise,” Agus added.

Jazz is very popular among young Muslims in Jakarta, he said.

“The Q’uran verse says, ‘Preach with your own people’s language.’ Hence, we use jazz music as a medium to preach and approach young people, so there would be more Indonesian youth coming to the mosque more often,” he said.

Gilang Widodo is a 22-year-old who came to pray and lingered for jazz.

“I am not a big fan of jazz music. But I found this jazz festival to be unique because we could enjoy jazz music in a mosque after Taraweeh prayers, which is very unusual,” he said, referring to a special prayer said during Ramadan. “I decided to stay here to watch it.”

A focus on tolerance

This year’s festival featured 16 prominent Indonesian jazz musicians. They included Dwiki Dharmawan, Idang Rasjidi, Payung Teduh, Tompi, Endah N. Rhesa, Ari Pramudito, Barry Likumahuwa and also Jilly Likumahuwa.

Coming from different backgrounds, they brought diversity and high-calibre talent to an event where the emphasis was on religious as well as musical harmony.

“Through the Ramadan Jazz Festival, we want to share the spirit of togetherness without being concerned about our differences,” said Agus, the Warta Jazz representative.

“We want to show that Islam is a tolerant religion. For example, we not only invited Muslim jazz musicians, but also Christian jazz musicians such as Barry Likumahuwa and also Jilly Likumahuwa,” he explained.

The first Ramadan Jazz Festival, held in 2011, attracted 2,500 young audience members from the greater Jakarta area. This year, attendance at the July 27th-28th event topped 4,000.

Audience members also helped support local libraries. Instead of purchasing a ticket, those attending the event were asked to donate a children’s book.

Andhika Mauludi, a RICMA spokesman who chaired the event, told Khabar the books will be donated to ten libraries in East Nusa Tenggara Province.

“Every book was exchanged for an entrance ticket. For those who did not bring books, we sold a donation ticket for a nominal 20,000 rupiah ($2). The money will be used to buy more books,” he said.

“Last week, we were able to collect 1,600 books, which was more than our target of 1,000. We also raised one million rupiah ($106) in donations,” he said.

The books will be examined prior to delivery to ensure that none contains portrayals of violence, racism, or other sensitive issues, he said. RICMA plans to sort them that after Idul Fitri (Eid Mubarak). Then, they will be donated through the non-profit Sabantara Community at the University of Indonesia, which has a book donation programme.

Islam for a new generation

Andhika told Khabar that RICMA has been using non-conventional approaches to engage young Indonesian Muslims since the early 1990s.

“The jazz festival is actually not our first modern approach to preaching. Previously, we have held events such as Bike to Mosque and the Jakarta Islamic Fashion Guide,” he went on.

He believes that these are some of the best ways to reach Indonesian youth.

“We hope that by using a modern approach, we could attract as many young Muslims as possible to come to the mosque more often and be active and involved in mosque activities,” Andhika explained.