JAKARTA MUSLIM CLERIC HATE
Militant Sees US Behind Bomb Blast
June 9, 2005
Muslim cleric Abu Jibril says a bomb blast outside his house on Jakarta’s southern outskirts might have been masterminded by the US in an effort intimidate him into stopping his campaign for an Islamic state.
The bomb exploded at about 4.30am Wednesday (8/6/05) outside the rented house occupied by Jibril, his pregnant wife and seven of their 11 children at the Witana Harja residential complex in Pamulang, Banten province.
The blast left only a 6-centimeter deep hole in the front yard of the house and caused no injuries, but it could be heard over a radius of several hundred meters, causing many locals to panic. Police found a timer, battery, wires, plastic and low-grade explosives at the scene.
Jibril was at the nearby Al-Munawwarah Mosque, performing pre-dawn prayers, at the time of the blast. He was taken to South Jakarta Police headquarters at 11.45am, questioned as a witness from 2pm to 6pm, and then released.
Upon arrival at police headquarters, he told reporters the bombing was certainly “engineered”, but he initially declined to speculate on the identity of those behind the attack.
"This was engineered because I was praying at the mosque when the bomb exploded at my house,” he was quoted as saying by detikcom online news portal.
Asked whether the US was behind the bombing in an effort to discredit him, he replied: “It was certainly engineered. I really don’t know [who was behind it]. Hopefully it will not cause problems.”
Jibril had more to say when he held a press conference at South Jakarta Police headquarters at the conclusion of his questioning. "This was part of a grand scheme by people who dislike Muslim scholars and activists striving for Islamic law in Indonesia," he said.
"Today I was terrorized by a low-grade bomb explosion. It’s not impossible that other Muslim clerics and scholars will be terrorized in the coming days,” he said.
When reporters asked him whether the incident might be linked to America’s recent warnings of possible terrorist bombings in Jakarta, he replied: "I think you reporters are quite wise. There is a grand scheme behind all situations in the Islamic world. We already know who they are. America is the number one.”
Jibril returned to his house at 7pm, accompanied by his lawyer Achmad Michdan local community-level (rukun warga - RW) leader Trisno Dahlan and the manager of the local mosque. Dahlan and the mosque leader had also been questioned at witnesses.
The US and Australia over recent weeks have warned that militants are planning bombings in Jakarta, prompting police to increase security at foreign embassies, hotels and shopping centers.
Police on Monday warned that Malaysian bombmakers Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top might be hiding on the outskirts of Jakarta. The two are senior members of Jemaah Islamiyah and wanted for involvement in a series of deadly bombings.
Abu Jibril’s Background: Terror Allegations & Immigration Conviction
Jibril alias Muhammad Iqbal Abdul Rahman (47) was born on August 17, 1957, on Lombok island, West Nusa Tenggara province, and later moved to Yogyakarta province in central Java. In 1985 he moved to Malaysia.
He is an associate of radical cleric Abu Bakar Baasyir, who is accused by Western governments of leading Southeast Asian terrorism network Jemaah Islamiyah. Baasyir is presently serving a 30-month jail sentence for involvement in the conspiracy behind the October 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people.
The US State Department in 2003 described Jibril as Jemaah Islamiyah’s "primary recruiter and second in command”.
Jibril is a member of Baasyir’s Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI), which campaigns for the implementation of strict Islamic law in secular Indonesia. MMI is currently chaired by Jibril’s older brother Irfan S. Awwas.
On June 30, 2001, Jibril was arrested in Malaysia during a crackdown on Jemaah Islamiyah and local militant organization Kumpulan Militan Malaysia.
He was detained for two years under Malaysia’s tough Internal Security Act on suspicion of links to terrorism. Malaysia subsequently held him for almost another year on immigration violations, before deporting him to Indonesia.
Jibril was immediately taken into custody upon his arrival in Jakarta on May 14, 2004. Prosecutors initially accused him of involvement in several bombings in Indonesia but later dropped the charges due to a lack of evidence.
Central Jakarta District Court on October 19, 2004, sentenced Jibril to five months and 15 days in jail for falsifying his identity, after he confessed to having provided false data to obtain a passport from the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur in April 1999.
He was released from Central Jakarta’s Salemba jail on October 27 as he had already served more than five months on remand.
The cleric had changed his name to Fihiruddin Moqtie bin Abdul Rahman on his identity card and later identified himself as Muhammad Iqbal bin Arrahman to obtain his passport, which also stated he was born in Yogyakarta, whereas his actual birthplace was Lombok. He had admitted to using a broker and colluding with an embassy official to get the passport.
Jibril’s lawyers and associates said his relatively short jail sentence in Indonesia had upset the US and Australia. They said it was possible he could again be targeted for prosecution on terrorism charges because of US and Australia were “paranoid” about his adherence to the political concept of jihad.
Regional security officials have alleged that Jibril headed a Malaysian cell of Jemaah Islamiyah and was replaced by suspected terrorist mastermind Hambali after his June 2001 arrest.
Hambali, an Indonesian citizen whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, was arrested in Thailand on August 11, 2003, is now being held by the US in an undisclosed location. He is suspected of involvement in 39 bombings in eight Indonesian cities since August 2000.
London-based human rights group Amnesty International has criticized America’s decision to hold Hambali, in a secret location. Amnesty says the detention of suspects in undisclosed locations without access to legal representation or relatives violates the right to a fair trial and puts them at risk of abuse. Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have all asked that Hambali be handed over for trial.
Indonesia has rejected calls from Western countries to ban Jemaah Islamiyah and MMI.
Prior to Wednesday’s bombing, Jibril was most recently in the spotlight during a May 22 rally outside the US Embassy in Jakarta to protest allegations that US officers had desecrated the Koran. "Destroy America and its allies! Kill those who desecrate Islam!" he was quoted as screaming by The Jakarta Post daily.
‘Blast Benefits US’
Jibril’s former lawyer Munarman, who defended him during his trial last year, said Wednesday’s bombing could be linked to Baasyir’s appeal against his terrorism conviction and would strengthen America’s claims that Indonesia remains susceptible to terror attacks.
"This is part of a configuration connected to the spreading of rumors about terrorists that are being blown out by the US," he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
"The US benefits from this because the specter of terrorism spread by the US becomes increasingly strong. This incident is also very closely connected to recent rumors of bomb threats…. In this framework, the explosion in Pamulang could be seen as an effort to trap Abu Jibril.”
MMI chief information officer Fauzan Ansori concurred with Munarman, saying the bombing appeared to have been an effort to stop Jibril from campaigning for an Islamic state.
Islamic Fervor & Angry Neighbors
Police have no suspects in Wednesday’s blast, but said the bomb might have been planted by neighbors annoyed by Jibril’s Islamic fervor.
Jakarta Police chief Inspector General Firman Gani said Jibril had moved from Lombok to Pamulang last year during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadhan, which took place from mid-October to mid-November.
“What we know is that he came to live in Pamulang during the fasting month last year from Lombok island in West Nusa Tenggara province. His neighbors didn't really like him because of some religious activities he's been conducting at the house,'' Gani was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
He said police will increase security in Jakarta, where up to two-thirds of the city’s 26,000 policemen are deployed daily to maintain security.
Gani said police were investigating whether the bombing was linked to last month’s bombings that killed 21 people at a market in Tentena, Central Sulawesi province. "We have not yet received any information that he [Abu Jibril] was at the scene during the Tentena bombings. We will investigate this further,” he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
Separately, police spokesman Tjiptono said investigators had not been able to identify whether Jibril has links to any extremist groups. He said the bombing was apparently unrelated to recent warnings of terrorist threats.
Teguh, one of the security guards at Al-Munawwarah Mosque, located about 200 meters from Jibril’s house, described the cleric as “very resolute”, saying he was not shy about reprimanding locals who failed to perform daily prayers at the correct times.
Citing an example, he said Jibril had recently sternly reprimanded an ojek (motorbike taxi) driver, who lived in the neighborhood, for failing to heed the mosque’s call to prayer, causing the man to became quite angry with the cleric’s forceful attitude. Several of Jibril’s other neighbors also disliked him for similarly trying to get involved in their personal affairs, he added.
Teguh said Jibril always zealously led prayers and sermons at the mosque since his arrival last year.
He said Jibril also frequently handed out pamphlets of his sermons and often made trips outside of Jakarta, to places such as Solo (in Central Java province), Yogyakarta and Aceh provinces.
"I picked him up from the airport only last month. He said he had just returned from Solo,” Teguh was quoted as saying by detikcom.
He said Jibril had planned to fly to Yogyakarta on Wednesday, but had to cancel the trip due to the bombing.
The guard said Jibril lived at the house with his wife Umi and seven of their 11 children: Jibril (23), Isrofil (20), Wardah (18), Ridwan (12), Rokib (11), Atid (10) and Udin (3).
Umi, who was wearing a full Islamic headscarf on Wednesday and declined to speak to reporters, is pregnant with the couple’s 12th child.
National Police spokesman Aryanto Budiharjo said police were investigating whether the bombing was an effort to discredit Jibril.
"It could be that a certain group or individual was using rumors of bombings as an act of intimidation,” he said.
Budharjo emphasized that Jibril was being treated as a victim of the bombing, and not as a suspect. "He is not the perpetrator of the blast…. There is not yet any connection with Azahari,” he said.
Man with a Gun
Jibril and said that shortly after the bombing he had seen a well-dressed man, an outsider to the neighborhood, carrying a new-looking air rifle outside his house.
He said local community chief Dahlan asked the well-built man for his name and residency card, but the man merely responded by asking whom the bombing had targeted and suggested they go to the local security post.
Jibril said he and Dahlan were then preoccupied with being questioned by police so they paid no more attention to the man.
One of the cleric’s lawyers, Akhmad Cholid, said police should have spotted the mysterious man, questioned him and confiscated his gun.
He complained that police had instead seized Jibril’s laptop, as well as numerous video compact discs containing footage of “domestic and foreign disturbances”, and several documents from meetings. "We will question, why the VCDs and laptop were taken without a confiscation order,” he said.
Jibril said another stranger had recently showed up at his house and asked to be accommodated for the night. "About a week ago, a man with the initial A had asked to spend the night at my house, saying he wanted to follow me… But I objected when he asked to sleep in my house. I told him to sleep at the mosque,” he said.
Lawyers Regret Action
Jibril’s lawyers, grouped in the Muslim Defense Team (Tim Pembela Muslim - TPM), accused police of initially treating their client as a suspect rather than a victim.
"I really regret that when there is a bombing like that, Abu Jibril was first indicated as the suspect whereas he was the victim. This violates the principle of the presumption of innocence,” TPM coordinator Mahendradatta was quoted as saying by detikcom.
"However, I genuinely appreciate the National Police for daring to reveal the facts, that Abu Jibril was merely a victim," he said.
"I’m pleased because it is clear, there is the fact that a neighbor witnessed two people traveling on a motorbike in front of Abu Jibril’s house 20 minutes before the incident," he added.
Mahendradatta also said he was happy because no members of MMI had been staying at Jibril’s house at the time of the bombing, otherwise they might have been branded suspects. "Usually Abu Jibril’s house often accommodates brothers from MMI. If they were there they would have been suspected.”
The lawyer declined to speculate on who might have been behind the bombing, but said the attack clearly benefited the US government. "This bombing has proven their assumption that Indonesia is not safe and still has bomb attacks, although it’s unclear where the bomb came from,” he said.
MMI’s Solo chapter appealed to its followers not to be provoked by the attack at Jibril’s house. Local MMI official Afif Abdul Madjid said the bombing was an effort to discredit “the Islamic struggle”.
"The modus operandi is like when a trap is set by planting marijuana or other illegal drugs in a car that is then raided. In the case of this bomb, they are looking for a scapegoat. Today the victim is Abu Jibril, tomorrow it may be many other leading figures of Islam, because they have already been targeted by slander. The aim is to put them in a corner and weaken the struggle for Muslims,” he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
He declined to name those behind the bombing, but said the perpetrators were those who claim to be anti-terrorism but are actually terrorists.
Madjid said MMI would not respond to the provocation but would instead entrust God to punish the perpetrators.
‘Replace Police Chief’
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislator Permadi said Wednesday’s bombing was a clear indication that police had failed to enlist the public’s help to combat terrorism.
He said police appear arrogant and have underestimated the problem of terrorism, so National Police General Dai Bachtiar should be immediately dismissed.
Bachtiar is no longer fit to remain police chief because he has failed to deal with important cases and has “breached his contract” to protect the public, he said.
"Police failed to ask the public to join in and carry out preventive steps against terrorism. There has been no response from the public to report suspicious new tenants or contractors of houses in their communities. This is a quite fatal failure of the police,” he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
“It was fortunate the bomb explosion was only in Pamulang. There would have been considerable difficulties if it had exploded in a hotel or another public place," he said.
Permadi, who is a member of parliament’s Commission I on defense, foreign affairs and information, said the National Police’s failings were due to the force’s “machine mentality”, in which they often to turn a blind eye to offenses in return for bribes.
He said this was clearly demonstrated after Azahari was stopped by traffic police after the September 2004 bombing at the Australian Embassy and paid a small bribe to avoid a traffic fine.
“We should not expect the security situation to improve much if police are still like that,” he said.
He criticized police for “arrogantly” treating terrorism as a routine matter, rather than a threat to public security. Although police have caught several perpetrators after bombings, they have failed to take adequate steps to prevent terrorism, he added.
Permadi further faulted police for their reluctance to enlist the assistance of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) in the effort to combat terrorists and their sophisticated equipment.
He also said Bachtiar should be replaced he had failed abysmally to eradicate gambling, which remains rampant despite being illegal.
Legislator Akil Mochtar, deputy chairman of parliament’s Commission III on law, legislation, human rights and security, said the Pamulang bombing should serve as a wake-up call to the government to intensify security in Jakarta by means of improving coordination between police and the nation’s intelligence bodies.
“Coordination with the intelligence bodies is needed to boost their strength to anticipate terrorist actions," he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
He concurred with Permadi that Bachtiar should be replaced. "But that is the president's authority," he said.
The Golkar Party member said parliament had already pushed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to appoint a new National Police chief, but to no avail.
Mochtar said the Pamulang bombing could have been conducted by terrorists as a warning that they had approached Jakarta. He said the blast might also have been perpetrated by Australians opposed to the recent conviction of Australian citizen Schapelle Corby for drug smuggling.
Sutiyoso Warns of Outsiders
Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso urged the city’s residents to be on alert and immediately report any suspicious activities to police.
"I ask the people to play an active role in helping the [security] apparatus in securing Jakarta. If there are any movements that arouse suspicion, report them immediately,” he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
He ordered all of the city’s RW and neighborhood-level (ruku tetangga - RT) leaders to collect data on all citizens living under their respective jurisdictions. "I also ask the RT/RW leaders to respond or take action if they have outsiders in their areas," he said.
"If they do not obey, at the every least they will certainly receive a strong warning from me. I could ask for them to be replaced,” he said, adding he would coordinate with police.
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