Islamic State launches suicide assault in Indonesia’s capital

The Islamic State claimed credit for a suicide assault in the capital of Jakarta that killed two people. Indonesian officials said the Islamic State fighters are fighters linked to a cell that is based in Syria.

Islamic State split up into at least two teams and opened fire at Starbucks and a department store in downtown Jakarta, according to Reuters. Police exchanged gunfire with the jihadists for three hours before the attack was defeated. Some of the gunmen were killed and some blew themselves up, while two of them were captured. The Islamic State fighters detonated several bombs during the fighting.

Civilian casualties were surprisingly low given that both attacks took place in crowded locations. One Canadian and one Indonesian citizen were killed during the fighting.

The Islamic State immediately claimed credit for the attack in an official communique that was disseminated by the groups supporters on social media websites.

“A security detachment from the soldiers of the Caliphate target a gathering of the charges of the Crusader alliance in Jakarta city,” according to the statement which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The Islamic State claimed that fighters armed with “light weaponry and explosive belts” attacked after “several timed canisters” or explosives were detonated. According to the Islamic State, “nearly 15 Crusader foreigners” and their local guards were killed. The Islamic State routinely exaggerates the effects of their attacks.

Indonesian officials immediately linked the attack to the Islamic State’s headquarters in Syria. Jakarta’s police chief said that an Indonesian known as Bahrun Naim, who is based in Raqqa, Syria, plotted the Jakarta assault, Reuters reported.

Today’s attack in Jakarta is the latest claimed by the Islamic State outside of Iraq and Syria. Most recently, in November of last year, the Islamic State executed a complex suicide assault in Paris, France, that killed more than 120 people.

The Islamic State in Indonesia

Jihadists in Indonesia who previously have been loyal to al Qaeda have been divided since the Islamic State was formed in June 2014.  A number of jihadists previously loyal to Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda’s branch in Indonesia, split from the group in August 2014 shortly after Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared the Islamic State and named himself as “caliph”.  Jemaah Islamiyah is responsible for numerous deadly terrorist attacks in Indonesia over the past two decades, including the deadly bombing in Bali.

Shortly after Baghdadi’s announcement, Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader and cofounder of Jemaah Islamiyah as well as the emir of Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, pledged allegiance to Baghdadi. Bashir, a veteran jihadist, made his pledge to Baghdadi while in prison. In 2011, he was convicted of “committing a criminal act of terrorism” by founding and supporting a terrorist group known as al Qaeda in Aceh and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to nine years.

Following Bashir’s oath of loyalty to Baghdadi, Bashir’s sons, Abdul Iim Rohim and Rosyid Ridho, and a number of senior jihadists broke away from the veteran jihadist and spiritual leader and formed their own group, known as Jemaah Ansharusy Syariah. According to the Jakarta Post, more than 50 percent of Bashir’s followers abandoned him and joined Jemaah Ansharusy Syariah.

Mochammad Achwan, the emir of Jemaah Ansharusy Syariah, admitted to the Jakarta Post at the time of the split that his group is part of al Qaeda’s global network and receives orders and advice from leaders overseas.

“Our sharia councils in Yemen and Syria have denounced ISIL [Islamic State] because the group has deviated from the right course in forming a caliphate,” Achwan said. “We received our direction from our respected clerics in JN [Jabhat al Nusrah, or the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria], and we have supported the group in many ways.”

In addition to Bashir’s Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, another group, known as the Mujahidin Indonesian Timur, has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. Both groups are listed by the US as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Abu Warda Santoso, the leader of the Mujahidin Indonesian Timur, has also sworn allegiance to Baghdadi.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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  • samuel12345 says:

    often see the formulation ‘named himself caliph’ or ‘self-proclaimed caliph’
    for the sake of analytical accuracy, lets be clear, he was elected by the Shura council of the Islamic state which embodied the ahl al-halli wal-aqd (people of loosening and binding i.e the people in influence and authority) , the traditional way of electing a caliph
    and he has been given bayah (allegiance) by clear majority of the tribal leaders of Iraq and syria

    • Dan says:

      But in order to form a “caliphate”, a number of emirates should be formed which are then tied in as the caliphate. That did, and has not happened. Therefore, the claim by many that al Baghdadi’s caliphate and title are illegitimate.

      While this may have been an IS inspired attack it was still executed poorly. 5 of the 7 killed were jihadists. In such a populated area this is a failure.

      I’d sure like to hear what the 2 captives are spouting about now. The Indons will not be handling them with kid gloves.

  • Verkili says:

    This attack has now claimed the lives of 4 civilians. Initial media reports mistakenly claimed there were 5 terrorists killed, but one of the “terrorists” was actually a civilian. In addition, a security guard who was shot multiple times died of his wounds in hospital.

    The final death toll is 4 civilians, 4 terrorists.


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