Repentant former Islamic militant works to draw youth away from radicalism

Keisyah Aprilia
Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Repentant former Islamic militant works to draw youth away from radicalism Supriyadi (alias Upik Pagar), a former militant and a co-founder of Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), smiles for the camera in Mapane, Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, June 21, 2022.
[Keisyah Aprilia/BenarNews]

At 36, Supriyadi has twice been in prison for terror-related activities in Poso, a regency in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province once torn by Muslim-Christian violence. 

Now, the repentant co-founder of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) militant organization wants to dedicate his life to drawing people away from extremism because, he says, he still has a conscience and opposes the killing of civilians.

Authorities have said that MIT members were responsible for several killings, not only of police officers, but of civilians they suspected were police informants, in Poso and its surroundings since 2012.

In May 2021, MIT killed four farmers in Central Sulawesi, and six months earlier, they killed four villagers living in a Christian community in Sigi regency near Poso. Similarly, in 2015, MIT suspects beheaded at least three non-Muslim farmers in Parigi Moutong regency.

These killings troubled Supriyadi (alias Upik Pagar).

“I still have a conscience. I don’t want to kill people carelessly. I disagree with MIT’s [killing of civilians.] That’s why I don’t want to deal with them anymore,” he told BenarNews.

“Killing farmers, it is very wrong and not in line with the jihad struggle that I believe in.”

Supriyadi was a member of the al Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah, the group behind the 2002 Bali bombings, when he was first arrested in 2007 for illegal possession of firearms.

After his release in December 2009, he returned to Poso and sought out friends from his former terror organization to form JI’s splinter group, the Poso-based Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), the following year.

“You could say I’m one of the founders of Poso-based JAT,” he said, adding that JAT later became MIT with a new man running it.

Like its predecessor, MIT, too, aimed to establish an Islamic caliphate. But, before the group could could carry out any attacks, Supriyadi was again arrested by the anti-terror squad in 2011.

“I was also charged with engaging in military training. I was sentenced to four years in prison,” he said.

Supriyadi (left) and other cast and crew look at the last scene of the film “Courier,” at the Katu House headquarters in Mepanga, Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, June 22, 2022. [Keisyah Aprilia/BenarNews]

Even though he tried to stay away from MIT after his release in 2015, Supriyadi was contacted by the militant group several times.

“They knew when I was free, that’s why they kept contacting me through their people,” Supriyadi said.

He still refused to engage with them, because he was determined not to return to the path of violence, he said.

Since then he has been working on his small business of raising chickens for eggs and with efforts to promote peace and spread the message to the youth to move away from radicalism.

“Thank God, my life is getting better. The profit from business is sufficient for living expenses with the family. All three of my children have also gone to school,” he said.

Supriyadi has since worked with an ex-terrorist on a film, "Courier," that tells the true story of a cocoa farmer who was forced to become a courier for an Islamic militant group so he could keep working his fields without fear of attack.

“For my brothers who are still with the [MIT] group, wherever you are, repent, remember your wives and children at home,” he said.

The former militant said he wanted his former enemy, the government, to pay more attention to repentant ex-convicts.

“The regional government in Poso knows that we are no longer active in radical groups and terrorism. But they don’t pay attention to us, except for the BNPT [National Counterterrorism Agency] and NGOs,” Supriyadi said.

 He said he is ready to work with the government to campaign against radicalism so that the younger generation in Indonesia, especially Poso, doesn’t get involved in the activities of radical groups.

“Because I used to be a perpetrator, of course I know how to prevent these young people from trusting and wanting to join extremist groups,” he said.

“To the government: ‘If you want to take me, I’m always ready.’”


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