E13: Terrorism and Deradicalization in Indonesia with Rakyan Adibrata

On this episode of Indonesia In-depth podcast, I speak to deradicalization and terrorism expert Rakyan Adibrata to discuss terrorist groups in Indonesia, the death sentence of a ISIS chief ideologist in Indonesia and the deportation of Indonesians caught while attempting to enter Syria and Iraq. All links to the podcast are below. Here are the key episode takeaways:

Indonesian ISIS Sympathizers 

+ In 2017, there were more than 500 Indonesian ISIS sympathizers detained by the Turkish government while attempting to cross the border into Syria. They were later deported back to Indonesia. Radicalization expert, Rakyan Adibrata, believes that these individuals remain a threat to Indonesia as they have been brainwashed into believing that an Islamic Caliphate utopia exists in Syria and are difficult to deradicalize. 

+ Indonesian authorities lack the manpower and funding to monitor these returnees after they have gone through the deradicalization process back home. This is cause for concern as these individuals remains vulnerable to future recruitment by extremists.

 Terror Group Splits over Allegiance Pledge 

+ Indonesian based Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) is an offshoot of the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) extremist group which was led by cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir. JI is most known for the 2002 Bali bombings and several suicide attacks targeted at Western hotels in Jakarta.  JI had pledged its allegiance to Al Qaeda. 

+ In 2014, JAT members split over Ba’asyir’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS. Many key members of the group including Ba’asyir’s son reportedly disagreed with this new allegiance over ideological reasons and left to form a new group called Jamaah Ansharusy Syariah (JAS). 

JAT Versus JAD

+ According to Raykan’s analysis, JAD and JAT are not only different due to their allegiances but also in their capabilities and dedication. JAT shares the same ideology as Al Qaeda, which often targets western symbols and aimed for mass casualties in order to create a large-scale terror. While JAD does have a large number of following, their attacks are more sporadic, less coordinated and mainly targeted the Indonesia law enforcement who they view as having a focus of worship other than Allah or Thoghut. JAD considered the government or anyone not supporting Sharia Law as Thoghut (including fellow Muslims). As the Indonesian police force continue to crack down series of terrorist cells, they have now become one of the main target of JAD as they’re also considered as Thoghut

+ Most JAT members in the past had some kind of tactical training to carry out large-scale attacks while most JAD sympathizers have little or no training and conduct sporadic attacks encouraged by ISIS. These include “lone wolf” attacks using pressure cooker bombs, knife attacks or using a vehicle as a weapon.

JAD Leader Sentenced to Death

+ Aman Abdurrahman is the chief ideologist of JAD. The group was formed in 2015. Since then, the group is responsible for series of terror attacks, including the recent Surabaya bombings in June 2018.

+ In June this year, an Indonesian court sentenced Aman Abdurrahman to death for inspiring his followers to commit a wave of terror attacks. Rakyan believes that Aman’s execution may not be carried out for years and he is confident that it will not occur before Indonesian presidential election in 2019, as the Widodo government hopes to reduce any unwanted attention towards the issue. He also believes that Aman’s execution will not have a negative impact on the JAD group as his sermons and ideology content are widely available on the Internet. 

New Anti-Terrorism Law

+ Before the new Anti Terrorism Law was passed  in parliament May 2018, Indonesia had no legal means to prosecute ISIS sympathizers that were captured abroad. After two years of deliberations in parliament, the new Anti Terrorism Bill was passed. The new law provides a legal framework to prosecute ISIS sympathizers or would be sympathizers. It also provides law enforcement with more power and allows for more room when it comes to preventative measures.

+ Radicalization of individuals while in prison continues to be a challenge for Indonesian authorities.  In addition to this, some Islamic extremists continue to find ways to communicate with their followers while in prison.