Bali bombmaker paroled; suicide bomber kills 1 in attack on police station

Arie Firdaus and Tria Dianti
Bali bombmaker paroled; suicide bomber kills 1 in attack on police station Former militant Umar Patek (second from left), who was sentenced for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, takes part in a flag-raising ceremony to mark Independence Day in Porong Prison, Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia, Aug. 17, 2017.
Umarul Faruq/Antara Foto/via Reuters

Indonesia on Wednesday released the Bali attacks bombmaker from prison at least seven years before he served out his full 20-year sentence.

A justice ministry official confirmed that Umar Patek, who assembled the bombs used in the 2002 Bali Bombings – Indonesia’s worst ever terror attack – was freed on parole in the morning.

On the same day, a former terrorism convict apparently unhappy with Indonesia’s new criminal code blew himself up at a police station in Bandung, killing an officer and wounding 10 other people, officials said.

The bomber had been released from prison last March after serving four years for a failed suicide attack in 2017 that was blamed on Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an Islamic State-linked militant group, police said.

Umar had been associated with another militant group, Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian affiliate of the al-Qaeda international terror network.

“Hisyam bin Alizein, alias Umar Patek, was released from the Surabaya Penitentiary under the parole program,” said Rika Aprianti, spokesperson for the directorate general of corrections at the Law and Human Rights Ministry.

Rika said Umar had fulfilled conditions for parole, including having served two-thirds of his sentence and taking part in deradicalization programs as well as pledging allegiance to the state.   

“The granting of parole was also recommended by the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) and the Special Detachment 88 (Densus 88),” Rika said in a statement, referring to the police’s elite anti-terrorism unit.

Umar has to now mandatorily join a “mentoring program” until April 2030, and his parole would be revoked if he violates it in any way, the statement said.

Umar was arrested in Pakistan in 2011 and tried in Indonesia. In 2012, instead of receiving the death penalty, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Like other prisoners in Indonesia, Umar, too, had received a series of sentence cuts for good behavior to mark Indonesian holidays.

In August, Umar said in an interview with the prison chief that it was a “mistake” to be involved in the Oct. 12, 2002 twin bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. Indonesian authorities blamed the attack on Jemaah Islamiyah.

In 2008, Indonesian authorities executed Imam Samudra, Amrozi and Mukhlas for their roles in the bombings.

Counterterrorism officials have touted Umar as a deradicalization success story, but the news in August that he would be paroled outraged people and officials in Australia.

At the time, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that Umar’s then impending release was “abhorrent” and would “cause further distress” to families of those killed in the bombings.

An Indonesian Automatic Fingerprint Identification System officer collects evidence following a blast at a district police station, in Bandung, West Java province, Indonesia, Dec. 7, 2022. [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

Bombing kills police officer

Meanwhile, several people on social media expressed their unhappiness about Umar’s early release.

“His release today at the same time as #BomBunuhDiri #Bandung [the suicide bombing in Bandung] actually gives a negative signal to the public and will cheer up terrorist groups,” @HastoSuprayogo said on Twitter.

Police said the suicide bomber forced his way into the Astana Anyar police station in Bandung, the capital of West Java province, and set off the bomb while officers were conducting a morning roll-call.

“He was stopped by several officers, but he brandished a knife and suddenly there was an explosion,” said provincial police chief Inspector General Suntana, who uses one name.

Fingerprint and facial recognition results confirmed that the perpetrator was Agus Sujatno, national police chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo told reporters. The 34-year-old bomber had not been successfully deradicalized, Listyo said.

Photos circulating online showed the bomber’s body parts strewn on the ground. An officer identified as Sofyan died in a hospital of his injuries.

Police seized a motorcycle they said belonged to the bomber. The vehicle had an Islamic State logo and a piece of paper taped to the front of the vehicle that read “The Criminal Code, the law of polytheists/infidels. Wage war against Satanic law enforcers.”

The attack came a day after the Indonesian parliament passed a broad new criminal code that, critics fear, would threaten civil liberties.

Listyo said police also found pieces of paper at the scene scribbled with criticisms of the criminal code.

The national police have ordered stations across the country to tighten security and increase vigilance, spokesman Brigadier Gen. Ahmad Ramadhan said.

‘We can’t read their minds’

Nasir Abbas, a former militant who has worked with counter-terrorism police, said the attack was a sign that that JAD could still carry out attacks. 

“This shows that the movement (JAD) still exists and is capable of getting people to carry out suicide bombings. That’s the message,” Nasir told BenarNews.

Nasir said the bomber’s supposed objection to the new criminal code was not surprising because JAD militants had always rejected Indonesian secular laws in favor of sharia.

Imron Rasyid, a security analyst at the Habibie Center think-tank, said the attack was timed with the controversy over the criminal code.

“They are taking advantage of the moment [to increase the impact of their action],” Imron told BenarNews.

Imron warned that JAD remained a major threat because the group had been recruiting while authorities were preoccupied with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boy Rafli Amar, the head of the National Counter-terrorism Agency (BNPT), rejected suggestions that security authorities were caught off guard.

“Terrorists always look for opportunities to strike. We can’t read their minds,” Boy said.

Indonesian authorities have blamed JAD for a series of attacks in Indonesia over the past six years.

These include gun and bomb attacks near a shopping center and a coffee shop in Central Jakarta in 2016, the first terror strike claimed by the Islamic State in Southeast Asia. The attack killed eight people including four militants.

JAD was also involved in suicide bombings in 2018 in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, authorities said. Twenty-seven people died, including 13 suspects.


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