Indonesian militant chief on death row for terror attacks now condemns them

Kusumasari Ayuningtyas
2022.04.04
Klaten, Indonesia
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Indonesian militant chief on death row for terror attacks now condemns them Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman is seen inside a courtroom in Jakarta, May 18, 2018.
[Antara Foto via Reuters]

An Indonesian militant leader on death row for his role in Islamic State-inspired terrorism acts said in a video that he opposed terror attacks linked to his group in 2016-2018, and chided followers for using women and children in some of them.

In a video posted on YouTube on March 31, Aman Abdurrahman, the chief ideologue for the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) militant group, claimed his followers had disobeyed him by launching the attacks, and complained that he had to take the blame for their actions.

“When Muslims live in an unbelieving nation, practice patience, stay true to monotheism and refrain from disturbing others,” Aman, 50, said in the video.

“Don’t apply [Quranic] verses on war,” he added.

He also condemned the involvement of women in jihad, or holy war, saying it was not an Islamic tenet.

“Jihad for women is performing the Hajj properly,” he said, referring to the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

In 2018, a Jakarta court sentenced Aman to death after finding him guilty of ordering militants to launch several terror attacks since 2016.

Prosecutors said the cleric masterminded deadly terror attacks from behind bars, while he was serving time for an earlier conviction.

On Jan. 14, 2016, militants launched gun and bomb attacks near a shopping center and a coffee shop in Central Jakarta. The attacks, the first terror strike claimed by Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia, killed eight people including four militants.

Prosecutors said Aman had also inspired militants in a suicide attack that killed three police officers at a bus station in Jakarta in 2017, as well as a Molotov cocktail blast that killed a two-year-old and injured three other children at a church in East Kalimantan province in November 2016.

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Death row inmate Aman Abdurrahman is seen condemning terror attacks in a video screengrab taken from a YouTube channel.

In the video, Aman complained that that he had to suffer the consequences of his followers’ refusal to listen to him.

 “Who are you following? The Prophet or your lust? You follow your lust as if lives belonged to you, not to Allah,” he said.

 “From the beginning I have taught you. What part [of my teachings] did you not understand?” he said. “You listened to other people and now I’m left with all the bad things.”

 In January 2017, the U.S. government designated Aman a “global terrorist,” alleging he had founded JAD, composed of two dozen pro-IS groups. American officials have also described him as “the de facto leader of IS supporters in Indonesia.”

 JAD was also involved in suicide bombings in 2018 in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, authorities said, but Aman has not been charged in those attacks. These involved three families, including girls aged 12 and nine, who blew themselves up, officials said.

 Twenty-seven people died, including 13 suspects.

 “No question that Aman  Abdurrahman is Indonesia’s most important extremist ideologue, whose writings and sermons, disseminated online and over social media, influenced thousands,” Sidney Jones, then the director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), told BenarNews in 2018.

 Video ‘can indirectly have an effect’

 Hendro Fernando, 38, a former militant convict who posted the video on his YouTube channel, said it was filmed by a friend while Aman was being treated for COVID-19 at a hospital in Cilacap, near the island prison of Nusakambangan where Aman is incarcerated.

 Hendro said he believed Aman’s statement was genuine and not coerced.

 “Many people used his name even though the orders didn’t come from him, causing harm to Aman who didn’t know anything,” said Hendro, who served time in prison for involvement with the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen, or MIT, a group linked to IS.

Hendro said the video had been the subject of discussions among Aman’s followers, some of whom questioned his motive.

 Dyah Ayu Kartika, a researcher at IPAC, said Aman’s video message might influence some of his followers but others might have their own justifications for engaging in terrorism. 

“And it should also be remembered that there are many ways women can get involved in terrorism, not just direct involvement in jihad, but also in other important roles,” Dyah told BenarNews.

Ardi Putra Prasetya, an analyst with the directorate of deradicalization at the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) expressed the hope that Aman distancing himself from the attacks could stem terrorist acts.

 “It can indirectly have an effect as factions within the JAD that are already divided can become even smaller,” he told BenarNews.

 “But there could be members who disagree with Aman or hate him and decide to leave the group and carry out [attacks] by themselves,” Ardi said.

 Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority nation, suffered its worst terror attack in 2002 when militants detonated bombs on the island of Bali, killing 202 people.

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