Jakarta attack

Militant's goal: Be ISIS point man in S-E Asia

Muhammad Bahrun Naim is said to be influential not just in Java but also in Sulawesi, where the East Indonesia Mujahidin is based. He has also crossed paths with other high-level Jemaah Islamiah operatives.
Muhammad Bahrun Naim is said to be influential not just in Java but also in Sulawesi, where the East Indonesia Mujahidin is based. He has also crossed paths with other high-level Jemaah Islamiah operatives.

He has been in contact with other Indonesian militants, ordered attacks and sent money

Indonesian Muhammad Bahrun Naim always harboured dreams of being the point man for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in South-east Asia.

This could give him either control over the terror group's operations and network in the region, or command of the Katibah Nusantara, a unit of ISIS fighters made up of Indonesians, Malaysians and others from South-east Asia.

Evidence seized from local militants arrested last month revealed that he had been in contact with them, issued orders for attacks and sent money.

These and other revelations about the 32-year-old computer science graduate were revealed to The Straits Times by a source familiar with intelligence matters.

Bahrun Naim has been among the ranks of ISIS' foreign fighters in Raqqa, Syria, since February last year after serving time in an Indonesian prison for the illegal possession of 533 assault rifle bullets.

He is said to be influential not just in Java but also in Sulawesi, where the East Indonesia Mujahidin led by Indonesia's most wanted terrorist, Santoso, is based.

His militant mindset was fortified after he joined local militant group Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) in September 2008. This was in the same year JAT was established by Indonesia's firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir after the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror group disbanded.

Bahrun has also crossed paths with other high-level JI operatives through Purnama Putra, a friend from university. This included JI bomb-maker Noordin Top, whom Purnama had helped procure wires for detonators and firearms before the 2004 bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.

Police intelligence indicates that Bahrun has sponsored at least two plans that originated in the Middle East to mount attacks in Indonesia - but they were foiled by the police.

He also asked a local militant named Ibadurrahman last year to form a terror cell and learn to make bombs and launch attacks.

The cell, consisting of six militants, had plans to strike targets in the city of Solo, including a police station, a church and a Buddhist temple. Ibadurrahman, however, was nabbed by the police, along with two accomplices, before the plan materialised.

From Syria, Bahrun also started a group chat using the Telegram messenger app, which reached some 103 militants across Indonesia.

In September last year, he sent a link to a website containing a manual to assemble bombs to a former schoolmate and a militant, Arif Hidayatullah, via Telegram.

He asked him to launch an attack on, among other high-level targets, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, but the plan was never carried out.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Militant's goal: Be ISIS point man in S-E Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe