Jemaah Islamiyah founder arrested for leading Indonesian al Qaeda cell


Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah and mastermind behind al Qaeda in Aceh, being escorted by Indonesian police. Associated Press photo.

Indonesian counterterrorism police arrested the co-founder and spiritual leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Southeast Asia.

Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, was arrested by Detachment 88 for sponsoring and directing a terror cell known as al Qaeda in Aceh, Inspector General Edward Aritonang, the spokesman for the National Police, told reporters at a press conference on Monday.

“Bashir was very active in preparing the camp which was used as the basis of Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia,” Aritonang told The Jakarta Post. “Bashir regularly received reports from Aceh.”

Bashir had named slain terrorist Dulmatin as operational commander of al Qaeda in Aceh, Aritonang said. Dulmatin was Southeast Asia’s most wanted terrorist before he was killed by Detachment 88 during a raid in a Jakarta suburb on March 9, 2010.

Detachment 88 arrested Bashir after a series of raids in four towns in West Java that netted five suspects. The raids uncovered intelligence that showed the terror group planned to carry out attacks on the National Police headquarters in Jakarta and a base in West Java, as well as embassies and hotels in the capital.

“From the raids, the officers seized some maps and sketches explaining their plan on the attacks,” Aritonang told The Jakarta Post.

Al Qaeda in Aceh first released a statement in early March, announcing it would wage jihad on non-Muslims. “We hereby assure Muslims that we will uphold our pledge to jihad against the Zionist Jews and Christians and apostates until God awards us victory, or we become martyrs in the way of Allah,” an al Qaeda spokesman said.

Detachment 88 has savaged the ranks of al Qaeda in Aceh, which is thought to have more than 10 current members. So far, Indonesian police have killed 13 members of al Qaeda in Aceh and detained 65 more.

Detachment 88 killed Abdullah Sunata, the cell’s leader,during a raid on June 24. Sunata was a long-time Jemaah Islamiyah operative who was closely linked to the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group, a terrorist outfit based in the Philippines.


Click the photo to view a presentation on Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Southeast Asia. The presentation was created by Nick Grace and Bill Roggio in January 2008. AFP Photo.

Bashir has a long pedigree in Indonesia’s radical Islamist circles. Along with with Abdullah Sungkar, he co-founded the radical Pesantren al Mukmin Nugruki in Solo, Central Java, to preach Wahhabism, the extreme version of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia and espoused by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Bashir and Sungkar were convicted for their involvement with the Darul Islam movement in 1982 and fled to Indonesia, where they began to organize followers. Bashir and Sungkar forged links with Osama bin Laden’s organization in Pakistan and sent classes of their students to wage jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

In 1996, Bashir and Sungkar established Jemaah Islamiyah. Sungkar died in 1999,and Bashir relinquished formal control of the group in 2000 but remained its spiritual leader. Bashir was convicted on terror-related charges following the deadly 2002 Bali nightclub bombing. He served just two years in prison for the Bali attack.

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

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  • ArneFufkin says:

    Is there any significance to the number “88” in the names of these counter-terrorism units (i.e. Task force 88)?

  • Paul says:

    These guy has been poisioning youngsters minds for years!

  • Bungo says:

    Better late than never I guess. This needs to happen a lot more often in a lot more places.

  • Tyler says:

    Arne, in Detachment 88’s case, the number refers to the 88 Australians who died in the 2002 Bali attack. The unit was founded with Australian funding and cooperation.
    Another victory from Indonesia, hopefully this time the charges keep him behind bars til he finally shakes loose the mortal coil.

  • James says:

    To Arne, to answer your question on the significance of the Task Force or Detatchment number “88”-The elite Indonesian anti terror group Detatchment 88 received their training from elite Australian anti-terror and special forces teams after the Oct. 12th 2002 Bali Bombing in which “88” Australian citizens were murdered. Thus the name “88” in their honor.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    Tyler/James: Thanks for the insight.
    I didn’t realize Detachment 88 was stood up after the Bali massacre. Makes sense.
    It’s hard to believe that was almost 8 years ago. Long war indeed.


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