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.

By , Special to the Christian Science Monitor

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.

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.

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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 producers

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.

Charismatic leaders like Mr. Bashir, the alleged JI leader, currently on trial in Jakarta, are fond of warning about efforts to Christianize Indonesia, and stress the glory of dying as an Islamic martyr. Their ultimate goal is not just an Islamic state in Indonesia, but one encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the southern Philippines.

A friendship forms

Dwikarna and Faruq had become friendly in Makassar in 1999, though intelligence analysts say it's possible the two men met in the southern Philippines, in the 1990s, where both had ties to militant groups. Faruq had also trained at Al Qaeda's Camp Khalden in Afghanistan in the early 1990s with a Makassar militant and associate of Dwikarna, named Syawal Yassin, who might have made the introduction.

The relationship was cemented by a confluence of needs: Faruq had access to money from Middle Eastern charities, and Dwikarna had uses for it. Faruq was sent to Indonesia to help the more militant proponents of Islamic law, the cause Dwikarna had been working on for most of his life.

Described as engaging and hardworking by friends in Makassar, Dwikarna was close to powerful figures, from Tamsil Linrung, the finance secretary for the Party of Indonesia's House Speaker Amien Rais, to Hadi Awang, the deputy leader of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, that country's principal political opposition.

Aiding displaced Muslims

When Dwikarna set up Kompak, its official mission was to provide aid to Muslims displaced by the turmoil that followed the collapse of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998.

His wife, Suryani, says he was particularly fond of working with troubled young men, many tied to the city's gangs.
"He wanted to work with youth, because that's where you can create the most change,'' she says. "He would play soccer with them, and afterwards they'd talk about Islam."

Dwikarna's talks often focused on the need for a more aggressive Indonesian Islam to counter what he saw as inordinate Christian influence on Indonesian politics. He favored Saudi-style dress codes for women, Islamic law instead of secular law, and distrust of the central government.

He also began making frequent trips to the Maluku capital of Ambon after the fighting started there in early 1999. Suryani remembers her husband was "distraught and emotional" after one trip to Ambon, in which he saw horrific injuries at a makeshift hospital in the Al Fatah Mosque.

After Muslim-Christian fighting erupted in the Sulawesi region of Poso in mid-2000, Dwikarna began traveling there as well. Suryani says he was inspired when he returned to Makassar to preach to youths he'd worked with about the suffering in Maluku, and the need to protect Moslems there.

That same year, Dwikarna created a new organization called the Laskar Jundullah, or "Militia of God," and he was named its commander. "Militia is just a word. It doesn't mean they were really violent or anything," Suryani says.
The Laskar Jundullah was deeply involved in the Poso fighting, while the Laskar Mujahidin was more involved in Maluku. The two groups were not the only Muslim militia in the conflict, but the Jundullah and Mujahidin were set apart by their international links.

In 2001, Dwikarna set up a military-style training camp near Poso. His friend Faruq conducted training along with Laskar Jundullah members at an Islamic boarding school in the neighboring province of East Kalimantan (Borneo) in 2001 and 2002, according to a transcript of Faruq's interrogation by US intelligence.

Would-be fighters were also dispatched for training with Muslim militants in the lawless southern Philippines. That region also became a source of guns and explosives, according to the Philippine government.

Overlapping missions

The relationship of Kompak's leaders with the Laskar Jundullah and the Laskar Mujahidin blurred the line between aiding victims and creating them through 2000 and 2001.

When two men accused of detonating a bomb in the Petra Christian Church in Jakarta in November 2001 were found to have fought under Fadillah in Maluku, the Indonesian national police described their militia as the "Mujahidin Kompak."
The often confusing welter of names and apparently overlapping missions of various groups underscores the fluid nature of organizations close to Al Qaeda. Rather than a hierarchy with Osama bin Laden at the top, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have overlapping circles of influence and cooperation.

"What you're seeing in Indonesia, as we've seen elsewhere, is that Al Qaeda is a network of networks,'' says Lee Wolosky, a lawyer who tracked terrorist financing for the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.
Dwikarna's friends and associates continue to reject any ties to violence. "Anyone who says Kompak was helping militias is lying,'' says Iswari al-Farisi, the deputy commander of Jundullah and a close friend of Dwikarna. Farisi says Kompak's videos were part of its charity effort. "We made them to document atrocities, and to show people that we needed to send help there,'' he says.

That militias were often in the videos merely reflected reality - "it wasn't safe to distribute aid if there wasn't protection." But to Achmad Abdi, the director of criminal research for the South Sulawesi police, the links to violence are clear.
"Dwikarna was the commander of the Laskar Jundullah, and we have evidence that a number of Laskar Jundullah members engaged in bomb attacks," he says.

Playing upon emotions

The Maluku war fit the paradigm being spun by preachers like alleged JI leader Bashir - and Kompak's video was made to play upon the emotions of its audience. It opens with ominous music playing over footage of homes destroyed in a Christian attack on a Muslim village. There are shots of surgeries conducted without anesthesia in rough field hospitals, and of crying babies in the arms of forlorn mothers. A burning, white-walled Protestant church is shown, while men off-camera shout "God is great." A caption explains the church was burned "because it insulted Islam."

Cardboard boxes of aid, many stamped "Government of Kuwait," are shown being distributed to Muslim families under the watchful eyes of militants.

There is the funeral of Abu Dzar. The film ends with a request that donations be sent to a Kompak bank account.
Donations - and recruits - poured in. But things went sour for Dwikarna during a trip to the Philippines in March 2002, when he and two associates were arrested at Manila's international airport and accused of transporting explosives in their luggage. The police said they had been buying weapons in the south. Dwikarna was later sentenced to 10 years in jail.

A wave of bomb attacks

To this day, Dwikarna and his supporters insist the charges in the Philippines were trumped up. Suryani says her husband was there to consider investing in a coal mine. She suspects he was arrested because of his support for sharia.

Nevertheless, veterans of Laskar Mujahidin and Laskar Jundullah have been tied to a wave of bomb attacks against churches and businesses in Indonesia from December 2000 to late 2002, and two of Dwikarna's associates have been charged with planning the Bali attack. The propaganda he had helped to create had done its job.

Key operatives in terror

Agus Dwikarna Businessman; main contact in Indonesia for Omar al-Faruq
Omar al-Faruq Alleged to have been Al Qaeda's main relationship manager in Southeast Asia.
Haris Fadillah Leader of the Laskar Mujahidin, a militia group active in the Maluku provinces; father-in-law of Omar al-Faruq.
Abu Zubaydah Leader of Al Qaeda's external operations.

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