Jemaah Islamiyah: The October 12, 2002 Bali Attacks and their Aftermath

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Jemaah Islamiyah: The October 12, 2002 Bali Attacks and their Aftermath

Jemaah Islamiyah leaders regrouped in Bangkok with Hambali to discuss possible targets in Indonesia, including oil tankers at Dumai Port on the Riau coastline, the PT Arun natural gas facilities in Aceh operated by ExxonMobil, the Newmont gold mine in Sumbawa, and tourist nightspots in Bali. By August 2002, they settled on a bomb attack at Bali clubs frequented by western tourists and Balinese Hindus. The operation was similar to the August 2001 bombing attack on Philippines Ambassador Leonides Caday and employed many of the same people, including Mukhlas (Ali Gufron), Imam Samudra, Zulkarnaen, Amrozi, Dulmatin, Umar Patek, Azhari, Ali Imron, Mubarok and Idris. Mukhlas and Amrozi were brothers. Mukhlas provided oversight, while Imam Samudra was the hands-on supervisor. Al-Qaeda transferred funds to Hambali; Imam Samudra acquired additional money from the brazen daylight robbery of a jewelry shop in Banten, West Java. [1]

The conspirators bought an old Mitsubishi minivan, filed off its identification numbers and assembled the massive bomb with more than a ton of potassium chlorate fertilizer, sulfur and aluminum powder for incendiary effect. They recruited and indoctrinated suicide bombers, Arnasan and Fer, uneducated Javanese villagers. In addition to the van bomb, Dulmatin assembled two smaller devices. One was a vest packed with sticks of dynamite weighing roughly five kilograms to be worn by Fer in a diversionary blast before Arnasan set off the vehicle bomb. The vest bomb was to be initiated by a manual trigger, but equipped with a backup timer. Another five-kilogram package of dynamite with a cell phone trigger was placed in front of the American Consulate in Denpasar as a symbolic gesture. [2]

After casing nightspots at the Kuta Beach resort, the plotters chose their targets. The van bomb would be positioned on a side street outside the Sari Club. Sitting in the driver’s seat, Arnasan would trigger the van bomb after Fer’s diversionary suicide bombing inside Paddy’s Bar across the street. The operation was set for Saturday evening, October 12, at 11:00 p.m. The package bomb was placed at the U.S. Consulate and detonated just before 11:00 p.m. without casualties or serious damage. Arnasan steered the van into position. Fer dismounted and walked into the middle of the crowded Paddy’s Bar and detonated his vest at 11:07 p.m. Almost immediately after the Paddy’s blast, Arnasan set off the van bomb. The fertilizer bomb did not fully detonate, but burned intensely and set off a massive fire at the Sari Club and adjacent buildings. Not counting the bombers, the attack left 202 dead, including 152 foreigners (among them eighty-eight Australians, twenty-two British, seven Germans, five Swedish, four French, four Swiss and four Americans) and about 350 wounded. Fifty-eight buildings were damaged, nineteen cars and thirty-two motorcycles destroyed. [3]

The Bali bombing was the largest and most deadly worldwide terror attack since the September 11 al-Qaeda attacks in the United States thirteen months earlier. Indonesian “experts” suggested the Kuta blast resulted from a “micro-nuclear device.” Senior officers reacted defensively to allegations the military was involved, suggesting the bombs were too complex to have involved military personnel. Former National Intelligence Coordinating Body (Bakin) Chief Lieutenant General Zaini Maulani went further, charging the U.S. or Israel must have been behind the attack due to its sophistication. The military and police were placed on highest level alert (Siaga 1). Security forces were deployed to protect vital facilities in Jakarta and other places. Washington evacuated dependents and non-essential staff from its Jakarta Embassy. Australia authorized voluntary departure for non-essential staff and dependents. Both countries warned citizens to avoid travel to Indonesia. Western businesses stepped up security.

Intelligence rivalries may have prevented action to thwart the Bali attacks. Soeharto had been a master of divide-and-rule tactics, encouraging competition between military intelligence, the civilian intelligence agency and police investigators. The intelligence agencies continued to operate independently in the post-Soeharto era – prominent examples being TNI Intelligence Agency (Bais) support for the pro-integration militias in East Timor and the uncoordinated al-Qaeda renditions by National Intelligence Agency (BIN) Chief Lieutenant General A.M. Hendropriyono. BIN reportedly had at least one Jemaah Islamiyah informer but lacked details about the Bali operation. For weeks in advance, police intelligence had monitored the cell responsible for the Bali bombings and expected an attack, but did not share details with BIN or the Armed Forces. Just days before the Bali attack, there had been a grenade blast near the Central Jakarta residence of a U.S. Embassy employee that claimed the attacker’s life. The police blamed the incident on a debt collection dispute despite suspicions of another bungled terror operation.

Vice President Hamzah Haz – who a year earlier had denied terrorists were present on Indonesian soil – clashed with Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Bambang Yudhoyono and hypocritically asked Megawati to fire BIN Chief Hendropriyono for failing to prevent the Bali attacks. Hendropriyono pointed his finger at the Vice President during a cabinet meeting and declared, “You have a hidden agenda.” [4] Megawati stood by Hendropriyono. Indeed, the BIN Chief had been warning about an al-Qaeda threat since the start of her presidency and had taken a risk by working with American intelligence without formal sanction. With Megawati’s patronage he had ignored the legal statutes, while TNI Commander General Endriartono Sutarto insisted on a “political umbrella” and Police Chief General Da’i Bachtiar was effectively an obstacle to arresting Islamic hard-liners like Abu Bakar Ba’asyir (photo inset).

President BJ Habibie had revoked the draconian, colonial era Anti-Subversion Law that both Sukarno and Soeharto used to persecute political opponents. Fearing a return to repressive New Order policies, Islamic groups and nongovernmental organizations had lobbied for months against a draft anti-terrorism bill. Less than a week after the Bali attacks, on October 18, Parliament issued two emergency anti-terrorism regulations (Perppu 1 and 2). They assigned primacy in combating terrorism to the police and allowed suspects to be detained for thirty days without charges, allowing judicial extension as necessary. Despite fears the security forces would abuse the authority, the new regulations were less repressive than the Internal Security Acts used in Malaysia and Singapore, and, in practice, were not abused.

Megawati and many Indonesians viewed Islamic militancy as a domestic issue. They failed to recognize the serious threat posed by militant groups like Jemaah Islamiyah as part of a global terrorist network until the Bali bombings. Despite pleas from BIN Chief Hendropriyono and others, in the months before the attacks Megawati had refused to order Abu Bakar Ba’asyir’s arrest. After a one week delay because the cleric had checked into a Surakarta hospital complaining about heart and respiratory problems, the police arrested Ba’asyir on October 19, just one day after Parliament passed the anti-terrorism regulations. They took him into custody at the hospital, despite a protest by thousands of supporters, and flew him to the capital, where Ba’asyir was admitted to the police hospital in East Jakarta.

The police charged Ba’asyir with involvement in the April 1999 Istiqlal Mosque bombing, the Christmas Eve 2000 church bombings, and plotting to assassinate then Vice President Megawati, based principally on intelligence obtained from al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Farouq. Some, especially devout Muslims, doubted Jemaah Islamiyah was responsible for the Bali attacks based on the government’s long history of manipulating Muslim groups. Thirty prominent Muslim leaders, including moderates like Abdurrahman Wahid’s brother, Solahuddin Wahid, petitioned the government to release him.

The police arrested Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) Commander Muhammad Rizieq Syihab on October 16, while Ja’far Umar Thalib voluntarily disbanded Laskar Jihad on October 19. Rizieq was charged with inciting public unrest in connection with an October 4 raid on a North Jakarta pool hall and nightclub. On November 6, he announced the FPI would temporarily suspend operations. He was later sentenced to seven months detention but allowed to serve his time under city arrest on the condition the FPI stop its raids. Both groups had ties to the security forces; neither was associated with Jemaah Islamiyah or al-Qaeda. Rizieq violated city arrest during April 2003 when he travelled to Jordan to help organize Indonesian volunteers to fight against U.S. forces in Iraq. Police re-arrested the FPI Commander when he returned to Jakarta April 20. He was held at the Jakarta Salemba Prison until November 2003.

After he was released, Rizieq convened an FPI congress to consolidate leadership, purge criminals from the ranks and legitimize the organization. It wasn’t long before FPI thugs were once again raiding bars and cafes. The FPI sent hundreds of volunteers to Aceh after the devastating December 2004 tsunami; they provided humanitarian assistance and warned locals about nefarious plans by aid agencies to spread Christianity among the staunchly Muslim population. Free Aceh Movement (GAM) leaders rejected FPI advances, calling it a “criminal organization” affiliated with the security forces. Authorities once more arrested Rizieq during June 2008 for inciting an attack during an inter-faith rally in Jakarta that left dozens injured. On October 30, the Jakarta District Court sentenced him to eighteen months in prison. Hundreds of supporters clashed with police outside the courtroom. Rizieq’s sentence was reduced on appeal to seven months, less time served.

The United Nations listed Jemaah Islamiyah as an international terrorist organization on October 24, 2002, supported by forty-nine nations including Indonesia. Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama leaders cautiously endorsed the government decision. Some still considered Abu Bakar Ba’asyir a hero. In December, the fundamentalist periodical, Sabili, named him “Man of the Year.” In April 2003, Ba’asyir was charged with “subversion against the legitimate government.” In September, he was convicted on a lesser rebellion charge and immigration violations, and sentenced to four years. The Supreme Court threw out the rebellion charge on appeal and reduced Ba’asyir’s sentence to eighteen months. One day before his release, the government again charged him with terrorism. Ba’asyir was sentenced to an additional thirty months. The cleric was released in June 2006 and returned to the Ngruki pesantren in time for his sixty-eighth birthday.

Megawati’s advisors debated the “Musharraf Scenario,” in which Washington had forgiven much of Pakistan’s debt, lifted sanctions, restored military ties and provided billions in financial aid in exchange for cooperation in the war on terror. BIN Chief Hendropriyono and Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil spoke out forcefully in favor of cutting a deal with Washington, while Vice President Hamzah Haz, Coordinating Minister Yudhoyono, Army Chief Endriartono Sutarto and Police Chief Da’i Bachtiar opposed the idea. [5] Megawati met U.S. President George W. Bush on the October 26-27 weekend at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. Such a generous deal as had been offered to the army regime in Islamabad was not forthcoming. On the return flight, Megawati made an unannounced stop in Bali October 28 to visit the bombing site and burn victims in the hospital. Her performance was uninspiring. She showed little emotion, empathy or anger at the wanton devastation.

Islam was Megawati’s Achilles heel. Even after Bali, she was reluctant to condemn Muslim militants. Squeezed between American pressure to act and the desire to avoid being seen as Washington’s puppet, she was upstaged by BIN Chief Hendropriyono and Coordinating Minister Yudhoyono, the strongest voices in an otherwise confused cabinet. In the months after the Bali attacks she noticeably softened her comments on terrorism. During a speech at the Jakarta Istiqlal Mosque to commemorate Muhammad’s birthday (Maulid Nabi) on May 14, 2003, Megawati criticized the use of violence to fight terrorism. [6]

Hendropriyono pushed for a role in the Bali investigation. He and Police Chief Da’i Bachtiar argued in front of the President. Megawati issued two decrees – one directing Coordinating Minister Bambang Yudhoyono to coordinate anti-terrorism policy – the other granting BIN the lead role in coordinating anti-terrorism efforts among the intelligence agencies. A rift had developed between Yudhoyono and Hendropriyono after the al-Farouq rendition. Yudhoyono favored a police lead in anti-terrorism operations; he was angry after Hendropriyono boycotted his first anti-terrorism coordination meeting. Similarly, the Armed Forces Staff under General Endriartono Sutarto, Bais under Air Vice Marshal Ian Santoso and the police declined to attend an Hendropriyono’s first intelligence coordination meeting. The BIN Chief was furious. Sutarto and Army Chief Ryamizard pressed for a new, more powerful intelligence coordinating agency to replace BIN, one with a more dominant role for the military and police.

Undeterred by police primacy in the investigation, Hendropriyono made his deputy, fellow Army Special Forces (Kopassus) officer Major General Muchdi Purwoprandjono, responsible for a combined intelligence team assigned to track down the Bali culprits. Muchdi was a practicing Muslim, the son of a kyai (religious teacher) and had been educated in a pesantren in Central Java. Previously a Prabowo loyalist, he followed orders without question and was happy to be Hendropriyono’s “hired gun.” An Officers’ Honor Council had reprimanded and sacked the former Kopassus Commander during 1998 for his involvement in abducting political dissidents. A colleague described Muchdi as a stupid, brutal officer. Another red beret said he was “trigger happy.” Some suspected Hendropriyono and Muchdi had played a role in the November 2001 murder of Papuan Presidium Chairman Theys Eluay. Later, Muchdi, and indirectly Hendropriyono, was implicated in the September 2004 arsenic poisoning death of human rights activist Munir Thalib.

Two weeks after the Bali attacks, in a gambit to recoup domestic security authority, Army Chief Ryamizard reiterated calls to expand the Army Territorial System and reinvigorate the intelligence network associated with the regional commands. He declared, “Our very strong intelligence network detected terrorist cells in Indonesia a long time ago. We didn’t act because it is no longer within our jurisdiction to do so.” [7] Ryamizard instructed regional commanders to improve their neglected intelligence networks and to renew ties to local officials, political parties, business and religious leaders, in other words to be more proactive in anticipating and interdicting terrorism. Taking a cue from BIN Chief Hendropriyono, Ryamizard gave the regional commanders authority to act against terrorists before seeking approval from Jakarta. [8]

By giving the police the lead anti-terrorism role, especially the added funding and international assistance for the new mission, the Perppu regulations aggravated tensions between the military and law enforcement authorities. TNI had three anti-terrorism units: Army Kopassus Unit 81 (named after the 1981 Woyla hijack rescue operation in Bangkok), the Navy-Marine Jala Mangkara Detachment (Denjaka) and the Air Force “Bravo 90” (based on its establishment in 1990 under the Air Force Special Troops, Paskhas) – and was eager for a piece of the action. But the police requested little help from military leaders and TNI involvement in the Bali investigation was minimal. Bali-based Udayana Regional Commander Major General Willem da Costa complained his men were excluded from the post-blast investigation and only used for site security.

On Da’i Bachtiar’s recommendation, Megawati assigned Papua Police Chief Major General I Made Mangku Pastika to supervise the Bali investigation. Pastika welcomed assistance from Australian Federal Police and U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation investigators. Over 100 international police officers deployed to Bali. With outside technical expertise, he and his police task force quickly unraveled the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network. One day after the blast, police recovered the motorcycle used to place the consulate bomb in the parking lot at a Denpasar mosque; they traced it to three men later identified as Amrozi, Ali Imron and Idris. They recovered part of the van’s engine block, which had been manually engraved with the serial number, unknown to the bombers who had carefully filed off the factory markings. The van was traced to Amrozi. [9]

Police arrested Amrozi on November 5 at his home in Lamongan, East Java. They recovered weapons and ammunition, including two M-16 rifles buried behind his house. He identified the other conspirators. Police Chief Da’i Bachtiar staged a press conference with Amrozi on November 13, laughing, shaking hands and posing for the camera with the confessed terrorist. Encouraged by the attention, Amrozi expressed delight at the Bali carnage, pointing to a group of western journalists in the room and declaring in Indonesian, “Those are the sorts of people I wanted to kill.” [10] The room full of police erupted in laughter.

While the circus continued in Jakarta, police arrested Imam Samudra on November 21 at Merak Port in West Java while he was attempting to flee to Sumatra. Samudra’s laptop computer contained a wealth of detail about Jemaah Islamiyah, along with his pornography collection and an analysis of why Bali was chosen as a target. “It [Bali] is a gathering place for all nations of imperialists, terrorists, oppressors, and destroyers of the virtue of Indonesian women—who, it should be noted, are Moslems. Are there Moslems who do not know that Bali is a centre for dealing in narcotics? Bali is one of the world’s most popular places for sex out of marriage, in a country where the majority of the population are Moslems, in a country with many Religious Scholars, Preachers, Proselytizers, and Islamic harakah activists. This is an irony which shames us in the presence of Allah, the Almighty and most worthy of praise.” [11]

Amrozi’s older brother, Mukhlas (Ali Gufron), the senior Jemaah Islamiyah member in the Bali operation, was arrested December 3 in Klaten, Central Java along with eight others. Police arrested the sixty-two-year old Abdul Wahid Kadungga in Jakarta on December 30. Lacking a more serious indictment, they charged him with possessing false identity documents. Singapore Police arrested Mas Selaet Kastari, leader for the Jemaah Islamiyah Singapore cell, on February 3, 2003. They announced Kastari had been planning to crash a hijacked airliner into Singapore Changi International Airport. Philippine authorities arrested three Indonesians in early-March – Agus Dwikarna (the Laskar Jundullah Commander and Ba’asyir’s Indonesian Mujahadin Council (MMI) secretary), Abdul Jammal Balfas and Tamsil Linrung. Balfas and Linrung – a Member of Parliament and former treasurer for Amien Rais’ National Mandate Party (PAN) – were released while Dwikarna was detained for possessing C-4 plastic explosives. It appears Filipino authorities planted the explosives in his luggage, likely at BIN Chief Hendropriyono’s behest. [12] In July 2002, Agus Dwikarna was sentenced to seventeen years in prison. He was freed in January 2014.

The Australian Federal Police and FBI involvement in the Bali investigation was a tremendous success story. The Australians and Americans stayed in the background providing technical support, advice and encouragement, allowing chief investigator I Made Mangku Pastika and his team to accept the accolades. Time Asia named Pastika its 2002 Man of the Year. On April 4, 2003 Parliament passed the Anti-Terrorism Law based on the two Perppu regulations. By mid-year, the police had arrested over eighty persons connected to the Bali attacks – fifteen who had been directly involved, thirty-five charged with harboring fugitives and thirty on firearms and explosives charges. Another fifteen Jemaah Islamiyah members were arrested in Australia. [13]

The big fish, Hambali, continued to evade authorities. He had been hiding in Bangkok, but crossed into Cambodia before the Bali attack and returned to Thailand several months later. Acting through Khalid Sheikh Mohammmed, al-Qaeda transferred $50,000 to Hambali, who was eager to initiate new attacks, possibly on an oil tanker in the Malacca Strait, facilities frequented by American servicemen in the southern Philippines, or Israeli tourists ready to board an El Al flight at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok. Hambali and remaining lieutenants had difficulty sourcing bomb-making materials, recruiting suicide bombers and with logistics, in general. [14]

Pakistani authorities captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on March 1, 2003 and transferred him to U.S. custody. Since Omar al-Farouq was captured the previous June, Khalid had been the principal connection between al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah. His interrogation led to more arrests in Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia. Yet, on August 5, Jemaah Islamiyah militants struck again with a suicide truck bombing (once more using potassium chlorate fertilizer) at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Central Jakarta, killing a dozen persons and injuring more than 150. Thai police captured Hambali August 11 in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. In cooperation with U.S. intelligence, a chartered aircraft took Hambali out of Thailand on August 13, probably to an interrogation facility in Jordan. The police recovered an abundance of incriminating material in Hambali’s apartment. He spoke freely about Jemaah Islamiyah during interrogation. The U.S. contributed $10 million in reward money to the Thai police unit that captured him. [15]

[1] Ken Conboy, The Second Front: Inside Asia’s Most Dangerous Terrorist Network, (Jakarta: Equinox, 2006), pp. 164 and 177-179.

[2] Ibid, pp. 179-184.

[3] Ibid, pp. 185-186. A blast at around 7:00 p.m. local time in front of the Philippines Consulate in Manado did not injure anyone and was apparently unrelated to the Bali attacks. Police attributed the blast to a business dispute over a gold mining project between locals and the Filipino owners.

[4] Cited in John McBeth, “In Search of Justice,” The Far Eastern Economic Review, October 31, 2002.

[5] Tatik S. Hafidz, The War on Terror and the Future of Indonesian Democracy (Singapore: Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, March 2003), pp. 3-5.

[6] Ibid, p. 5.

[7] Cited in Leonard C. Sebastian, Realpolitik Ideology: Indonesia’s Use of Military Force (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2006), p. 105.

[8] International Crisis Group, “Indonesia Briefing: Impact of the Bali Bombings” (Brussels: ICG, October 24, 2002), pp. 3-4.

[9] Conboy, The Second Front, pp. 188-190.

[10] Cited in Darren Goodsir and Wayne Miller, “Laughing Bomber on Parade,” The Sydney Morning Herald, November 14, 2002.

[11] Cited in Angel M. Rabasa, “Radical Islamist Ideologies in Southeast Asia,” in Hillel Fradkin, Husain Haqqani and Eric Brown (editors), Current Trends in Islamist Ideology (Washington. D.C.: Hudson Institute, 2005), p. 32.

[12] The Editors, “Current Data on the Indonesian Military Elite,” (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, Indonesia, Volume 75, April 2003), p. 34.

[13] Conboy, The Second Front, pp. 190-192.

[14] Ibid, pp. 192-199.

[15] Ibid, p. 205.

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