A blog under the name Bahrun Naim, the alleged mastermind of the Jan. 14 attack in Jakarta, was accessible for several hours Tuesday, as Indonesian leaders discussed revising the nation’s antiterrorism laws to give law enforcement greater ability to pre-empt such attacks.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology on Saturday shut down some 11 radical websites and several social media accounts where users were expressing support for Thursday’s attack, which left four civilians and four attackers dead.
But the Bahrun Naim blog reappeared under the same name, with a different address.
In a post called “Advice for Viewers” it claimed that a group called Junud Daulah Islam (JDI) had targeted police and foreigners to retaliate against Densus 88, the elite police anti-terrorism unit, for allegedly killing “hundreds” of Muslims.
It further claimed that JDI had issued a “warning” through Santoso, a shadowy figure widely considered Indonesia’s most dangerous militant, thought to be hiding in the forests of Central Sulawesi with a band of 30 followers calling themselves the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT).
In November, a video appeared online with Santoso’s still image and a voice similar to his threatening to attack the headquarters of the Jakarta police and fly the flag of the Islamic State (IS) from the Presidential Palace in Jakarta.
Meanwhile, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo met with legislative and executive officials to review the National Antiterrorism Law of 2003 with an eye toward improving national safety.
Cabinet Secretary Pramono Agung said the government has detected suspicious activities since November.
“But there are parts of the Antiterrorism Law which do not allow the government to take action,” he said. For example, he said, the law blocks investigators from using materials believed to have been used to train bomb-makers as evidence.
The leaders also discussed changing the law to allow law enforcement to crack down on people who have returned to Indonesia after training with militant groups in foreign countries.
In December, the head of Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) gave two different figures for the number of Indonesians who have gone to Syria and Iraq. Intelligence data says 800, whereas police have a tally of 384, he said.
“More than 169 have already come home,” Saud Usman Nasution said.
Fifty-three Indonesians have died in the Middle East, among them four suicide bombers, he said.
National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti said he supports changing the law because police can observe those returning from Syria or Iraq but cannot to arrest them unless they were to commit terrorist acts, according to the Jakarta Post.
He told Reuters that the country was bracing for the return of more experienced fighters who may be capable of carrying out more sophisticated attacks.
The Jan. 14 assault included two pistols and 11 homemade bombs. The perpetrators were neutralized in less than 30 minutes, CCTV footage reveals.
Al Chaidar, a terrorism analyst from the University of Malikussaleh Aceh, stressed that the revision should be focused on dealing with acts that lead to terrorism.
“And most importantly, the government should issue a law or regulation defining and listing terrorist or banned organizations. Through the list, the public can find out which organizations are banned. So people understand that by joining the organization, they could be arrested,” he said.
Trained in prison
Analysts were also concerned that at least three of the people involved in the attack had recently served time in prison – and been further radicalized there.
Alleged mastermind Bahrun was convicted of owning illegal weapons and ammunition in 2010 and was released from prison in 2011. Police believe he has joined the IS in Raqqa, Syria.
Afif, alias Sunakim, who has been identified as the man photographed pointing a gun a people during the attack, had been sentenced to seven years in prison and was freed last August.
In prison, he prayed and cooked together with Aman Abdurrahman, a man convicted in a 2004 bombing, according to Taufik Andrie, the research director of the Institute for International Peacebuilding, a Jakarta NGO.
“Once he was out of prison, he was even more militant, right?” Taufik commented.
Ansyaad Mbai, the former chief of the National Counter Terrorism Agency (BNPT), urged the government to form special prisons for inmates linked to terrorism cases so they are not as likely to train other prisoners.
He said there were at least a dozen convicts released at the end of 2015 who should be monitored for potential terrorism links.
Taufik said some former convicts immediately disappear, move with their families and do not report to the authorities, violating terms of their parole.
Zahara Tiba and Arie Firdaus contributed to this report