Ngruki group link with terrorism in France
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(Antara/Hasan Sakri Ghozali)
A terrorist network linked with Al-Mukmin (Ngruki) Islamic boarding school in Surakarta, Central Java, is suspected of being behind terrorism incidents in Paris and Toulouse, France, in March.
The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chairman Insp. Gen. (ret.) Ansyaad Mbai told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that the French police had informed the agency that three French nationals, including fugitive militant Frederic C. Jean Salvi, were planning to take shelter in Ngruki after the planned attacks.
Salvi, according to Ansyaad, spent several years studying with Islamic militants in Indonesia, and is among the country’s most wanted fugitives.
“We are watching the Ngruki boarding school closely and in constant touch with the French authorities. We are investigating how these three French citizens got in touch with the school and the purpose of their planned trips there,” Ansyaad said.
Ngruki was founded by firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, now serving 15 years in prison for organizing a terrorism training camp in Aceh. Many of the school’s graduates have been involved in terrorism, including the first Bali bombing in 2002 that claimed more than 200 lives, mostly foreign tourists.
Salvi is suspected of links with the terrorist network responsible for the shooting that claimed seven lives in Toulouse, in March. Network member Mohamed Merah, 23, was shot dead by the French authorities during a raid.
According to the BNPT, the group is involved in two separate incidents at the Indonesian Embassy in Paris.
In the first incident in October 2004, a bomb exploded near the Embassy, injuring 10 people.
In the second in March of this year, an explosion caused minor damage and no injuries. Security camera footage showed two people — one on a motorcycle, a second on a bicycle — pass by the embassy shortly before the explosion.
The French police have thus far been unable to detain anyone responsible for the incidents.
The BNPT announced Salvi’s alleged role in the embassy events after intercepting emails and online chats. The latest attack, the BNPT said, was meant to warn Indonesia to stop the US and Australia-funded security crackdown that has resulted in the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of hundreds of Muslims in recent years.
Salvi has been on Indonesia’s most wanted list since 2010 and was first introduced to Ba’asyir by activists of Al Ghuroba, a study club for Indonesian students in Pakistan, Afghanistan and several Arabic countries.
The spokesman for the Ngruki boarding school, and Ba’asyir’s youngest son, Abdurrachim, denied the BNPT allegations on the events in France.
“The BNPT and other anti terror agencies have always campaigned negatively against our school just because we aim to enforce sharia in this country. They have no proof of what they accuse us for,” said Abdul “Iim” Rohim, also one of the founders of Al Ghuroba.
However, he admitted the school had foreign visitors, including some from France, who were interested in studying there. “I condemn those who arbitrarily relate our foreign visitors to terrorism. We are open to outsiders. We do not prohibit them coming here. Even though we are attempting to uphold Sharia law here, it doesn’t mean that we will use all possible means, such as bombing, to reach our goal,” he said.