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Hilman Djaja Kusumah was a drug dealer. The detainee, 36, who was serving a seven-year term in Kerobokan prison, Bali for possession of marijuana in 2003, became a convert to a holy cause.
He was tasked to clean the prison mosque and open the cells for inmates ahead of Friday prayers. Eventually he looked up to the bombers who were detained there — Amrozi, his brother Mukhlas, and his friend Imam Samudra, who were all later executed.
A former fellow inmate had said that Hilman once referred to the Hindu prison guards as thagut, oppressors who worshipped idols. As cited in a July report of the International Crisis Group (ICG), he said that “we should kill unbelievers wherever we can find them”.
In March 2012, police shot and killed five men in Denpasar, whom they accused of planning a third Bali bombing. Investigators said the suspects had surveyed two bars often visited by tourists in Bali. One of the deceased suspects was Hilman.
The head of the National Antiterrorism Agency (BNPT) Ansyaad Mbai, said Hilman was indeed influenced by Amrozi and his close friends and agreed that prison had a become a recruiting hub.
“We are trying to improve prison monitoring, but prisons are overpopulated ... it would be difficult to separate terrorist suspects from regular criminals,” he said.
Since the Bali bombings of 2002 there have been around 600 arrests of suspected terrorists, about 250 of which were released. Out of 170 released from 2010 to 2011, 23 were re-arrested for terrorist attempts.
“Although the figure is only 10 percent [of those released], but ... they can influence or hurt other people,” Ansyaad said.
Investigations of recent incidents suggest that many suspects are linked to known networks or former detainees, confirming suspicions that prisons and former inmates retain their function in the network of terrorists.
In late September, the police arrested a man with suspected links to a Surakarta-based terrorist group, at Pantoloan Port in Palu, Central Sulawesi. Hasan alias Wendi, had been taught to assemble explosives by Rudi K. Putra, identified as a bomb expert and terrorist recruiter. Hasan was among the participants of military training conducted in Poso by Santoso, a long-time fugitive. Santoso is also thought to have links with other alleged terrorists, such as Wahyu Ristianto and Thoriq.
Wahyu died of severe wounds in an explosion in Depok, West Java on Sept. 8. The next day, Thorik, who kept explosives in his house in West Jakarta, surrendered to police.
In a bid to stifle the ease of networking, one solution is to transfer convicts with a minimum sentence of 10 years to the Nusa Kambangan penitentiary off the northern coast of Java. On Oct 6, the hard-line cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir was among terrorist convicts moved to Nusa Kambangan in Cilacap, Central Java. Ba’asyir was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June last year for his role in the organization of a terrorist training camp in Jantho, Aceh Besar.
However the actual ability of Nusa Kambangan authorities to cut off the convicts from terrorist networks is yet to be known.
The ICG, a research group on security issues has warned the government that terrorists find it easy to regroup, given the many loopholes in the country, such as the relative freedom of prison where detainees are able to access the Internet, and are free to link up with old and new contacts in the network after release.
Among the ICG’s recommendations in its July report was the improvement of prison monitoring, airport security, the evaluation of existing de-radicalization as well as disengagement and counter-extremist programs.
Ansyaad said the government must find new solutions to curb radicalization, citing the ineffectiveness of de-radicalization programs.
“The 23 former terrorists who were arrested again have shown that even though the suspects were put behind bars, they remained radical,” he said.
Terrorism networking has also improved, indicated by the ease in which they are able to obtain weapons or explosives.
“The borders between Indonesia and the Philippines are easy to cross ... terrorists can get weapons from the Abu Sayyaf group […] or buy arms or explosives from the black market in Indonesia,” Ansyaad said.
Among many, information on how to procure weapons was gained from convicted terrorist Umar Patek. In June he was sentenced to 20 years for illegal possession of firearms, explosive devices and chemicals in addition to his role in making explosives for the first Bali bombings.
The Internet and social media are also increasingly important tools for terrorists today.
A source for The Jakarta Post said that M. Thoriq, who police said made explosives in Tambora, West Jakarta, had prepared to attack Shiite minority groups using Facebook. Preparations took around a year and all the plans were shared using this social media.
“This social media kept him connected with several friends who had similar ideas,” the source, who claimed he is one of Thoriq’s Facebook friends, said.
Solahuddin, the author of a book on terrrorists’ ideology, said that the Internet and social media have long been effectively used by militants . For instance, Imam, executed for the first Bali bombings, recruited a student from Semarang in 2004 through an online chat-room.
“Imam had access to use the Internet from a [smuggled] laptop in prison. He met Agung Prabowo in a chat-room and Agung became a devoted follower,” Solahuddin said.
Agung created a website anshar.net, during June to October 2005, before the second Bali bombing. He was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to three years for his involvement.
Ansyaad said that BNPT had trained police and airport security to recognize potential terrorists. However, he said that it would be tricky to impose bans on the Internet, despite the criminal clauses on inciting hatred and despite similar clauses in the law on electronic information and transactions.
“What we must do is compete with [terrorists’ use of the Internet and social media], but there is a long way to go,” he said.