Indonesia arrests key leader in al-Qaeda linked group
Published on: Wednesday, September 15, 2021
By: Agencies
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Militant cleric Abu Rusdan (centre) after his trial hearing at a district court in Jakarta, in November of 2003. (AP)
JAKARTA: Indonesia’s elite counterterrorism squad has arrested a convicted militant and suspected leader of an al-Qaeda-linked group that has been blamed for a string of past bombings in the country, Indonesia police said.

Abu Rusdan was seized late Friday in Bekasi near the capital of Jakarta, along with three other suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah, police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan said. 

“He is currently known to be active among the unlawful Jemaah Islamiyah network’s leadership,” Ramadhan told the Associated Press. Indonesian authorities consider Rusdan to be a key figure in the Jemaah Islamiyah, which the US has designated a terrorist group. 

The shadowy Southeast Asian network is widely blamed for attacks in the Philippines and Indonesia — including the 2002 bombings in the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

Ramadhan described the arrests as part of a broader nationwide crackdown on the group. 

Police are still searching for other suspected members, followed tips that the group was recruiting and training new members in Indonesia.

Born in Central Java, Rusdan, 61, was sentenced to jail in 2003 for sheltering Ali Ghufron, a militant who was later convicted and executed for carrying out the Bali bombings.

After his release from prison in 2006, Rusdan travelled Indonesia giving speeches and fiery sermons that received tens of thousands of views on YouTube. In one recorded sermon, he praised as the “land of jihad” Afghanistan — the country where he had previously trained with other militant groups.

Indonesia’s police counterterrorism unit, known as Densus 88, has swept up 53 alleged members of the Jemaah in the past weeks, across 11 different provinces.

An Indonesian court banned the group in 2008 and a sustained crackdown by the country’s security forces with support from the US and Australia has helped to weaken the militant network.

In the past year, Indonesian officials say counterterrorism forces have captured dozens of militants and suspected members of the Jemaah, including its alleged military leader, Zulkarnaen, who had been wanted for more than 18 years.

Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and security forces, inspired by Islamic State group tactics abroad.

The Indonesian National Police (Polri) on Tuesday said the recently arrested Thoriquddin, alias Abu Rusdan, is a reoffender of terrorism charges.

Abu Rusdan is believed to be involved in a plethora of terrorism cases the police handled in the past couple of years. In August this year police suspected his involvement in the fundraising scheme initially used to fund terrorists. 

“That was his latest involvement after serving his time in prison,” said the Polri headquarters spokesperson Grand Commissioner Ahmad Ramadhan on Tuesday. Ramadhan said Abu Rusydan is still believed to be an active member of Jamaah Islamiyah and is even a higher ranking member of the terrorist group. He, along with other senior members, established a group that continues to communicate with one JI leader Para Wijayanto who had been arrested in 2019. 


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