Different hometowns, same extremist ideology

Bahrun (left), believed to be in Syria after having joined ISIS, and Aman are said to be linked to the Jan 14 attack.
Bahrun (above), believed to be in Syria after having joined ISIS, and Aman are said to be linked to the Jan 14 attack.
Bahrun (left), believed to be in Syria after having joined ISIS, and Aman are said to be linked to the Jan 14 attack.
Bahrun, believed to be in Syria after having joined ISIS, and Aman (above) are said to be linked to the Jan 14 attack.

Two were hardened militants in their thirties who had served time for crimes committed in the name of terror, while the other two were just 25 years old. The men who mounted the Jan 14 attack in Jakarta might have been from different regions in Indonesia, but they shared a common extremist ideology.

Jakarta police chief Tito Karnavian believes they were brought together for the attack by Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian who has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), while terror experts suspect they could also be linked to jailed radical ideologue Aman Abdurrahman.

Bahrun is believed to be in Syria after having joined ISIS since February last year. But he may have crossed paths with Sunakim or Muhammad Ali, the oldest of the four Jakarta attackers, while he was serving a year's jail in Indonesia for illegal possession of weapons in 2011.

Sunakim, 34, was in jail between 2010 and last year, for attending a Jemaah Islamiah (JI) paramilitary training camp in Aceh, while Ali, 39, was jailed the same year for robbing a Medan bank to fund terror activities.

Sunakim was said to have close ties with Aman while both were in Cipinang Prison from December 2011 to June 2012, when Aman was transferred to Nusakambangan Prison in Cilacap, Central Java. However, Aman is not believed to have the tactical expertise to mount an attack such as the Jan 14 strike.

But in a new twist, the Indonesian National Police said Abu Bakar Bashir, the cleric behind the now disbanded JI, may be questioned over his links to the same attack. Bashir, who is serving time in Nusakambangan, has challenged his conviction in court that he had helped to fund the camp in Aceh where Sunakim was nabbed in 2010, arguing his 15-year jail sentence is legally baseless. The case was last heard on Jan 13, the day before Jakarta was hit.

Less is known about the two younger men - Dian Joni Kurniadi and Ahmad Muhazin Saron - possibly because of their lack of terror-related or criminal records.

Meanwhile, the bodies of Sunakim, Ali, Dian and Muhazin, remain in the custody of the police. The police told The Sunday Times on Friday that once their next-of-kin step forward to claim the bodies, the police will assist in moving them to their burial sites. However, their families are facing resistance from neighbours who are against having terrorists buried next to their kin.

"Of course we hope to receive his body, it's been so long," said Sulaiman, the brother of Sunakim.

Asked about the delay, village headman Jajat Suhija said there are some people in the town who agree that for humanitarian reasons, Sunakim's body should be allowed at home, but there are also many who are against it. "It's a hot subject now, I will try to settle this soon."

Francis Chan and Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2016, with the headline 'Different hometowns, same extremist ideology'. Print Edition | Subscribe