Inside the Jihad: Terrorism Still Casting a Long Shadow
Muh Taufiqurrohman | August 13, 2010


The police's elite Densus 88 counterterrorism unit arrested five alleged
terrorists in West Java this past week, and while Abu Bakar Bashir grabbed
the headlines, three of the others, Abdul Ghofur, Fakhrul Rozi Tanjung and
Kurnia Widodo, who are connected to a Bandung-based radical group known as
Jamaah As Sunnah, caught my eye. 

I met these guys during my field research and shared meals with them at
weekly religious gatherings and during paramilitary training. 

I first met Ghofur in 2006 at the JAS headquarters in Bandung, located at
the As Sunnah Mosque, where radicals from Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia and
Jemaah Islamiyah joined JAS cadres for joint paramilitary training. 

Being close to Ustadz Dudung, a JI member and military veteran of
Afghanistan, Ghofur was quick to express his radical views and determination
to fight what he called Islam's enemies: the American government and its

In 2007, I met Fakhrul, who was introduced to JAS by Izzul, who also goes by
Abu Ibrahim, a university graduate who trained radicals in mountaineering

When Fakhrul joined the group, he was new to the jihadi movement and was
seen as cowardly by other members. 

One day, he and a man called Kliwon purchased an air gun for rifle training.

Fakhrul was scared to death when asked to carry the gun, which was not even
a lethal weapon. 

I met the third man, Kurnia, in October 2007 when JAS leader Ustadz Lesmana
introduced him to me. 

Kurnia said he was looking for a new home for his radical activities because
he saw his previous group, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, as hypocritical, too
political and ignorant of Muslim suffering. 

When Lesmana asked his followers about Kurnia, some suggested he might be a
threat to the group because his father-in-law was believed to be an employee
of a company that made weapons for the Army. 

Boasting about his graduate degree in chemical engineering from the Bandung
Institute of Technology (ITB) though, Kurnia impressed Lesmana and he was
eventually accepted into the group. 

He was assigned to teach bomb making. 

When, in 2008, two members of JAS were planning to kill an American citizen
in Bandung, Fakhrul and Kurnia distanced themselves from the planning. 

I believe they were too scared of getting caught. Kurnia even urged Lesmana
to confiscate a rifle to be used in the murder. 

As the two became more deeply involved with JAS, they also became more
radical and more active in jihadi sermons, paramilitary training and
bomb-making classes. 

On many occasions, Fakhrul in particular sought out rifles or pistols.
Meanwhile, Kurnia taught bomb making using the infamous "Anarchist
Cookbook," obtained online. 

In addition, they got to know more radicalized members from other groups
such as MMI, JI and, more recently, Bashir's Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid. That's
how they met Ghofur. 

Interestingly, although I saw other, older JAS members as more radicalized,
it was Fakhrul and Kurnia who were to become committed to terrorism. 

The way things played out with Ghofur, Fakhrul and Kurnia, holds important
lessons for the security agencies. 

When monitoring radical groups, new members who come with skills or money
need to be looked at very closely. 

Despite their lack of background in jihadist theory, these kinds of new
members usually encourage older members to commit terrorism, and often
provide the means by which to do so. 

It is important for security agencies to act quickly to remove dangerous
newcomers from the group and have them undertake some kind of
deradicalisation program. This must be done before any terrorist act is

Meanwhile, agencies also need to handle the religious teachers who
radicalize inexperienced activists and often become the masterminds behind
eventual terrorist acts. Agencies must not let these supposed teachers get
away with their crimes. 

If they are not proven to be directly involved with terrorism, that does not
mean they are not responsible. 

Finally, the security agencies should treat every radical group seriously,
no matter how small they are, by infiltrating and isolating them from other

When they are just starting out, radical cells are at their most dangerous
because they exist under the radar, preparing and waiting for a chance to

In 2005, JAS itself was talking about bombing the American Embassy in
Jakarta, and throughout 2006-2008 they constantly discussed bombing the
Australian Embassy and Jakarta malls, as well as killing foreign diplomats,
foreign citizens, a priest and West Java Police officers. 

Had they had sufficient money and equipment, they may well have carried out
these plans and caught us by surprise. 

Muh Taufiqurrohman is a researcher at the Indonesian Institute for Strategic


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