The Jakarta Post
The suspected mastermind of the Thamrin attacks in Jakarta, Bahrun Naim, tried to prove his loyalty to the Islamic State ( IS ) group by spreading fear and chaos, as instructed by the IS leadership, a terrorism expert says.
University of Indonesia ( UI ) terrorism expert Ridwan Habib pointed out that after the Paris attacks in 2015, IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani through the Al Hayat media center had urged IS sympathizers to attack 'the infidels' in any condition and with any tactics.
'Bahrun was likely following this order. The main objective of the Thamrin attacks is to follow IS leaders' command. His position in IS may be upgraded as a reward,' Ridwan said in Jakarta on Friday.
Al-Adnani's radical statement, he continued, had caused pro-IS militants to outdo each other in what they deemed as good deeds. With such motivation, militants conducted terrorist attacks worldwide.
Meanwhile, terrorism expert Al Chaidar believed IS did not specifically order Bahrun to carry out the attack. It might have been his own initiative to follow al-Adnani's order to demonstrate his loyalty and at the same time achieve personal ambitions in the 'jihad career'.
'He wants to draw attention, so that he can be promoted to IS' Southeast Asia commander. Bahrun's chances of being appointed as a new [IS Asia] leader have increased after the Thamrin attack,' he said.
Especially, Al Chaidar added, since the number of fighters from Mindanao, Philippines in Syria was lower than that of Indonesians.
Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict ( IPAC ) director Sidney Jones believes that Indonesian radicals are stronger contenders for IS leadership than their counterparts from the Philippines.
'IS is more likely to choose another Indonesian militant, like Bahrumsyah or Abu Jandal,' Sidney told thejakartapost.com on Friday.
Bahrumsyah is believed to be the commander of Katibah Nusantara, the joint group of Indonesian and Malaysian IS fighters formed in late 2014.
Meanwhile, Abu Jandal is a preacher from Malang, who accused Bahrumsyah of corruption and set up a dissident unit. Bahrun Naim, according to Sidney, is known to be close to Abu Jandal's faction.
'Bahrumsyah's position is not likely to be seriously challenged by the Jakarta attack, but the competition between him and Bahrun Naim could increase,' Sidney said.
Ridwan said he believed Bahrun was the mastermind of a failed terrorist attack prior to the Thamrin attack. He was a leader in Arif Hidayatullah's group, members of which were caught by police on Dec. 23 in Bekasi on suspicion of planning attacks during Christmas and New Year Eve.
In detention, Arif apparently admitted that Bahrun was the leader and donor of the planned attacks. Bahrun, a college student in computer technology, allegedly funded the attack with money he stole by hacking credit cards and bank accounts, the expert said.
Ridwan added that Bahrun had transferred the money to Arif's wife, who worked as a migrant worker in Malaysia, through PayPal. Bahrun allegedly also financed a group that was arrested in Solo in August 2015 for planning a series of bomb attacks.
'It wasn't much money, only about US$275 for the purchase of explosives. In December, Bahrun sent more money both to top up travel expenses for five people planning to go to Syria and to finance jihadi attacks,' Sidney said.
However, Chaidar refuted that point, saying the funds had come from a collection in the congregation. "He got the money by using social media and chatting apps, such as Whatsapp,' Chaidar said.
Bahrun built his reputation not only as a radical teacher in Solo, but also as a writer. He maintained an active blog on Islamic subjects, notable for hardline conspiracy theories, Sidney said.
However, neither Bahrun's social media nor his blog can be accessed. 'The government may have blocked Bahrun's blog,' Chaidar said.
By contrast, Ridwan believed Bahrun was trying to 'duck' from the public following the attack. After some time, Bahrun would come back and reorganize his group. Based on his latest post, Bahrun was in Raqqa, Syria.
Chaidar, on the other hand, believes that Bahrun is in Aleppo, Syria. 'Bahrun is an IS commander in Aleppo,' he said. ( ags )