Abu Bakar Bashir, founder of the group behind the 2002 Bali bombings, is still giving orders to would-be terrorists from his jail cell, authorities believe.
The radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, founder of the group behind the 2002 Bali bombings, is believed to still be giving orders to would-be terrorists from his jail cell.
Bashir was transferred from police headquarters in Jakarta last week to Batu Penitentiary on the island of Nusa Kambangan, dubbed the Alcatraz of Indonesia because of its extremely high level of security.
The prison island, off the southern coast of Central Java, was also where Bali bombers Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas were housed until their executions in 2008.
While police did not initially disclose the reasons behind the sudden decision to move Bashir, which came days ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings, it has emerged authorities are concerned that he has continued to be actively involved with terrorist groups even from behind bars.
“The leading figure (for terrorism) is still the same,” Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency chief Ansyaad Mbai has told AAP.
“Even though he’s already in jail, he’s still giving commands.”
The 74-year-old founded Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the group responsible for the attacks in Bali, and remains the spiritual leader for Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), which was designated a terror organisation by the United States earlier this year.
Mbai has also warned that the new crop of violent jihadists now active in Indonesia is being driven by the same radical ideology that led to the 2002 bombings.
“It’s no longer important what their name is. What’s obvious is the new group and JI are linked ideologically,” he said.
“Their ideological figures remain the same.”
Bashir, who spent 26 months in prison over the Bali bombings before later being acquitted, was jailed again last year for helping set up a terrorist training camp in Aceh.
He was sentenced to 15 years after being found guilty of using JAT as a front to raise funds for the Aceh camp. The terror cell found training at the remote jungle base was believed to be planning attacks on Western targets.
The counter-terrorism chief also confirmed that a group of five men shot dead in Bali in March were part of a new military wing formed by JAT.
“JAT has several wings. The military wing is called Tim Hisbah,” Mbai said.
“This group is also linked with the five people shot in Bali.”
Terrorism analyst Noor Huda Ismail said more effort was needed to counter the radical ideology still flourishing in Indonesia, warning that failure to address the problem would almost certainly lead to a repeat of the attacks in Bali.
He said extremist elements in Indonesia were still regrouping after a successful campaign by authorities over the past 10 years.
“We arrested 600, we killed some of them,” he told AAP.
“But eventually, those people will be released.”
“What do we do with them? Can we hope that they will de-radicalise voluntarily? There needs to be a systematic effort.”