News / Asia

Indonesian Cleric's Arrest Disrupts Radicalization in Southeast Asia

Radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was arrested August 9 after a months-long investigation into a terrorist group calling itself al-Qaida in Aceh.  Analysts say his arrest was more significant than just the disruption of a terrorist plot. It demonstrated, they say, a new emphasis by Indonesian authorities on preventing radicalization and terrorist recruitment in Southeast Asia.

Radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was charged Wednesday with helping plan terrorist attacks in Indonesia. It is a crime that carries a maximum penalty of death. Police say he was involved in setting up a terrorist cell and militant training camp in Aceh Province that was plotting high-profile assassinations and attacks on foreigners in the capital.

Symbolic importance

But terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna with the Singapore-based Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies says Bashir's symbolic importance to the radical Islamic movement surpasses any operational role he may have played.

"Bashir remains a central figure in terrorism in Southeast Asia and globally," Gunaratna said. "He's the public face. He's the iconic figure when it comes to terrorism in Southeast Asia. There is no one who is more prominent than Abu Bakar Bashir in Southeast Asia."

Who is he?

The 71-year-old cleric is a co-founder and spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida linked terrorist network. Its purpose is to establish an Islamic caliphate extending over the Muslim areas of south-east Asia.

Jemaah Islamiyah is blamed for a series of bombings that killed over 250 people in the last decade, including those on Bali in 2002 and 2005.

Bashir spent more than two years in prison for his involvement in the 2002 terrorist bombings on Bali that killed 202 people. The Indonesian Supreme Court threw out his conviction in 2006.

Bashir has denied any involvement in terrorism but he continues to speak out and founded a legal organization called Jama'ah Ansharut Tauhid or JAT that promotes the creation of an Islamic state in Indonesia. His arrest had been anticipated after several JAT members were arrested in May for allegedly funding terrorist activities in Aceh.

No mistakes

Security analyst Ken Conboy with Risk Management Advisory says police took its time collecting intelligence and evidence against Bashir so as not to repeat the mistakes they made the last time the arrested him.

"The government really blew the case against him," Conboy said. "They had him in prison. They couldn't make any of the bigger charges stick and even the charges they did eventually get, he was let free. So I think the government really stumbled the last time around and I am sure this time they were being very very methodical and making sure they had as tight as case as possible before they arrested him."

Bashir blames pressure from the United States and Australia for his arrest and some hardline Islamic organizations in Indonesia defend him as a victim of anti-Islamic forces.

Extensive influence

Gunaratna says Bashir's influence in radicalizing Muslims and recruiting terrorists extended throughout Southeast Asia. Malaysia recently arrested three suspected militants believed to have ties with the radical cleric.

And he says Bashir's arrest is a turning point for the region's war on terror. It shows that Indonesian authorities are now willing to go after ideological figures with significant public support that promote extremist causes.

"The president of Indonesia should be congratulated because previous presidents did not take the threat seriously," Gunaratna noted,  "and certainly the government of Indonesia should send to prison not only those who are operational terrorists but ideological terrorists, people who write, who advocate and who support terrorism. And Abu Bakar Bashir belongs to all those categories."

But he says this new emphasis on cracking down on those propagating extremist messages is just beginning, and more must be done to prevent the radicalization of another generation of Muslims in Southeast Asia.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid