Reports of Indonesian IS Commander’s Death Unconfirmed: Officials

Tia Asmara
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170315-ID-Bahrumsyah-620 Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian known by the nom-de-guerre Abu Muhammad al-Indonesi, is pictured in a screenshot taken from an online IS propaganda video, Jan. 27, 2016.

Indonesia’s government is trying to verify reports that an Indonesian commander of Islamic State (IS) based in Syria was killed in a suicide bombing this week, officials said Wednesday.

The IS-affiliated Amaq News Agency reported that Bahrumsyah, one of the founders of a Malay-speaking combat unit of IS made up exclusively of Southeast Asian fighters, died Monday while carrying out a suicide mission in Palmyra, Syria.

Bahrumsyah was killed when his explosives-rigged car blew up before reaching his intended target, a Syrian Army unit, sparing its members from any injuries, the Singapore-based Strait Times reported.

“We are still waiting for clarification,” National Police Spokesman Inspector Gen. Boy Rafli Amar told reporters in Jakarta on Wednesday. “We do not dare say ‘yes,’ however we have information about it.”

Indonesia’s National Counter Terrorism Agency (BNPT) also could not confirm Bahrumsyah’s death.

If the reports of his death prove accurate, two of three top Indonesian figures with IS in the Middle East are now dead.

The process to verify such reports was slow because Indonesians who travel to Syria or Iraq do so to join IS without reporting to the nearest embassy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said.

“We have difficulties in confirming such news, because they went to Syria illegally,” he told reporters.

Bahrumsyah (whose aliases include Bachrumsyah Mennor Usman, Abu Muhammad al Indonesi, and Abu Ibrahim al Indonesi), recently was classified by the United States as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Also on that list was imprisoned Muslim cleric Aman Abdurrahman, the leader of the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) extremist group.


Bahrumsyah is part of a network of IS-aligned Indonesian militants including Aman, Bahrun Naim and Abu Jandal, who was reported killed in Mosul, Iraq, in November 2016.

Indonesian authorities took notice of Bahrumsyah in 2014 when he appeared in a YouTube video calling on Muslim youths in Indonesia and Malaysia to join IS. The video’s release led to a government ban on IS.

A second video, posted in 2015 and accessible online in January 2016, showed a clean-shaven Bahrumsyah (pictured) speaking to the camera and giving orders to dozens taking part in military training at a Syrian camp.

Last month, police reported that his wife, Nia Kurniati, was among 75 people housed in a government shelter in Jakarta for rehabilitation after being deported from Turkey in January after she allegedly tried to travel to Syria.

Differing opinions

Ridlwan Habib, a terrorism expert at the University of Indonesia, said he was sure that a new video and photos released by Amaq, showed Bahrumsyah just moments before his death. A message posted on Twitter by with a screen grab from the video identified the bearded man sitting in a vehicle as “Suicide Bomber Abu Mohammed.”

Ridlwan said it was rare for IS to give the same alias to more than one person, especially Indonesians.

“For example, (the name of) Abu Muhammad, if it is already taken, then others should not use the same name, although the last name is the same as al Indonesi,” he told BenarNews.

Yet a terrorism analyst from the Community of Islamic Ideological Analyst (CIIA), Abu Harith Ulya, questioned the identity of the alleged bomber seen in the images.

“Abu Muhammad who was killed was not Bahrumsyah. For sure, he was not Bahrumsyah,” Harith told BenarNews.

Trial for five

Meanwhile, five members of Katibah Gonggong Rebus (KGR), an IS-linked group accused of planning a rocket attack on Singapore from the nearby Indonesian island of Batam in August, on faced trial in an East Jakarta courtroom on Wednesday.

The five pleaded not guilty on Jan. 24 to charges in connection with the alleged terror plot, harboring militants and funding terror activities, according to the Straits Times.

Gigih Rahmat Dewa, 31, the alleged leader, and his four accomplices, Hadi Gusti Yanda, 20, Tarmizi, 21, Eka Saputra, 35, and Trio Syafrido, 46, were back in court for the trial that began Feb. 1.

Accused of being an IS sympathizer with links to Bahrun Naim, Gigih denied having any part in the foiled attack. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.


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