How Al Qaeda lit the Bali fuse: Part two
Religious-teaching sessions that included films of Christian-Muslim conflict in Indonesia energized young men to join in jihad.
The images from the hand-held camera jiggle as they zero in on a column of irregulars shouldering homemade rifles and dressed in T-shirts and sandals. They're marching off to wage jihad against Christians, according to the caption on the screen.Skip to next paragraph
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As they file past the low terra-cotta roofs and whitewashed walls of Siri Sori village and into the surrounding banana and coconut groves, the camera focuses on a smiling man in a black T-shirt. As he turns and waves, a new caption identifies him as "the martyr Abu Dzar" - killed in action against Christians on Oct. 23, 2000.
Abu Dzar was the nom de guerre of Haris Fadillah, leader of the Laskar Mujahidin, a militia group that cranked up the violence in the Muslim-Christian war that erupted in Indonesia's Maluku provinces in 1999 and inspired a generation of Indonesian militants.
Mr. Fadillah was also the father-in-law of Omar al-Faruq, a key go- between for Indonesian militants and Al Qaeda who is being held without charges by the US. Mr. Faruq, Fadillah, and dozens of others used the violence in Maluku as the raw material to recruit many of Indonesia's militants through a carefully honed propaganda campaign. Their efforts culminated in the terror attack that killed 202 people in Bali last October.
Video compact discs and tape-recorded sermons have been essential tools for spreading Al Qaeda's ideology, going back to the resistance of Afghan and other Muslim fighters to the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Osama bin Laden got his start aiding those fighters - sometimes with CIA assistance - and videos were used both to enlist fighters and raise funds.
The half-hour Fadillah film pulls back the veil on just how effective a propaganda war fought with homemade footage and arresting images can be in energizing militants who might otherwise set their sights close to home.
The videos were distributed across the region, from Indonesia to Malaysia to the Southern Philippines. Frequently they were shown during informal religious teaching sessions by clerics with ties to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an Al Qaeda-linked group that Indonesia says was behind the Bali attack. The eager young men in attendance, duly incensed by what they'd witnessed, were then briefed on how they could join the jihad.
"The Maluku war helped bring a lot of Indonesia's militant groups together and radicalized a lot of young fighters,'' says an Indonesian intelligence officer who has investigated JI. "Propaganda was used to get the message out."
The videos were created and distributed by the Crisis Committee, or Kompak. The film's producer, Aris Munandar, doubled as the right-hand man of alleged JI leader Abu Bakar Bashir. Agus Dwikarna, who served as Faruq's principal contact in Indonesia, helped finance production.
Mr. Dwikarna also founded Kompak, raising funds in 1998 from a variety of Middle Eastern charities, according to Iswari al-Farisi, a friend of Dwikarna's who worked with the group.
Dwikarna was a small businessman from the seedy, teeming South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar. But he had a big political vision: to make Indonesia an Islamic state. He also had a network of contacts stemming from his university days as an Islamic activist.
Dwikarna belonged to a radical political tradition that has been prone to violence in the past and was a crucial reason why the Maluku conflict touched a nerve with so many Muslims.
Though Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country, the state has been resolutely secular since independence. This has spawned a significant minority who see the failure of Islamic law, or sharia, to take root as the result of a conspiracy of Indonesia's Christians, hostile Western powers, and a corrupt political elite.