Accessibility links

Death of Indonesian Top Terrorist Is Not End of Threat


Authorities say the death of Noordin Top, the leader of a group responsible for the July 17 bombings of two hotels in Jakarta, is a significant victory in Indonesia's war on terror. But they also say that police work alone will not end the threat of terrorism in Indonesia.

According to two men who are working to counter Islamic militants, the death of Noordin Top last week seriously weakens the country's terrorist network.

Noor Huda Ismail, with the International Institute for Peacebuilding in Jakarta, says Noordin was the most charismatic and effective advocate for violence for Indonesian militants.

"Noordin is the guy who has the managerial skills to continue [to] motive young recruits to join his cause which is to kill Americans and its allies," said Ismail.

Noordin led a faction of the group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which seeks to establish a single Islamic state across much of Southeast Asia. After a police crackdown, JI members were convicted of several deadly bombing attacks in Bali and Jakarta earlier in the decade. After those arrests, JI's violent activity declined.

Noordin, however, continued to advocate more attacks against Western targets.

Nasir Abbas is a former member of Jemaah Islamiyah who now helps the police try to change the thinking of convicted terrorists. He says for years Noordin was like a ghost to the people of Indonesia, with his ability to induce fear and elude the authorities. He says that while Noordin's death makes the country safer, it does not remove the threat of terrorism.

"It is safer because he is the one, the most ambitious man to do the operation, but it doesn't mean it will end because the root cause is not the person of Noordin," said Abbas.

The cause, says Abbas, is the misinterpretation of the concept of jihad, or the struggle for Islam, by radical leaders and many clerics. That misinterpretation, he says, mistakenly sanctions the use of violence against civilians.

"The ideology to kill the civilians, that is the root cause, not the jihad," he said.

Ismail agrees. He says the war on terror in Indonesia is a war of ideas, and over the past decade, a radical minority within JI using Islamic boarding schools and the Internet, has been successful at spreading its message.

"It is a very fringe minority even among the JI members, those who actually advocate violence is a very fringe minority," he said. "The problem here is not the number. The problem is how the level of their dedication and their ability to dictate the discourse, their ability to sway the meaning of Islam and hijack it for their own purposes."

The Ministry of Religion has conducted religious tolerance forums over the years to confront this radical ideology. Ismail says advocates like himself must do more, but the majority of moderate Muslims in Indonesia must also speak out against those involved in terrorism.

"Often time terrorism is beaten not by the government but by regular people who have the courage to report something unusual to the authorities," added Ismail.

He says the threat of terrorism cannot be completely eliminated but the dual strategy of decapitating the leadership and confronting its ideology will limit its effectiveness in the future.

XS
SM
MD
LG