Jailed Indonesian terrorist Abu Bakar Bashir has been funding ISIS: Anti-terrorism chief

Although Abu Bakar Bashir, the jailed spiritual leader of South-east Asia's terrorist network, only recently voiced his support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), his network is already financing and fighting for the group. -- PHOTO: AFP
Although Abu Bakar Bashir, the jailed spiritual leader of South-east Asia's terrorist network, only recently voiced his support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), his network is already financing and fighting for the group. -- PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Although Abu Bakar Bashir, the jailed spiritual leader of South-east Asia's terrorist network, only recently voiced his support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), his network is already financing and fighting for the group.

National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) head Ansyaad Mbai told The Jakarta Post on Monday that Bashir had been actively helping ISIS for the past couple of months.

ISIS is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

"Bashir claimed he had not pledged the ba'iat (oath of allegiance) to ISIL leader (Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi). That's just a ruse. In reality, he and his network are involved in seeking donations and recruiting fighters for ISIL," said Ansyaad.

"We have prevented many of Bashir's followers from leaving the country to join ISIL. From questioning them, we have uncovered the scale of his involvement."

The BNPT has estimated at least 30 Indonesians are involved in the jihadist movement in Iraq under ISIS and in Syria with Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), a prominent Salafi jihadist organisation with links to Al-Qaeda.

Ansyaad said Bashir's declaration of support for ISIS would motivate hardliners to raise more money and join the fray.

The support would also help unite extremist groups to fight under the banner of an Islamic state, or caliphate, according to Ansyaad.

ISIS proclaimed a "Caliphate of the State of Islam" with territory stretching from northern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala.

"All groups originating from JI (Jamaah Islamiyah), Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) and the Islamic State of Indonesia (NII) are sympathisers of ISIL as they have the same ambition," said Ansyaad.

Bashir, a former leader of JI who founded JAT, declared his support of ISIS in front of high-ranking JAT leaders and his family last week in the maximum-security Pasir Putih Penitentiary on Nusakambangan Island near Cilacap, Central Java.

Bashir is serving a 15-year prison sentence for terrorist offenses.

JAT chairman Mochammad Achwan said that although Bashir had voiced his support, he had yet to pledge the ba'iat to ISIS's leader due to JAT's ties with JN.

"There seems to be discord between JN and ISIL. That's why we've chosen to refrain from declaring the ba'iat, but our position is clear. We support the formation of a caliphate and the territorial control established by ISIL has (helped the movement) gain traction," said Achwan.

Albeit sharing the same ambition of reviving the Islamic caliphate that ruled the Middle East and beyond over the course of Islam's 1,400-year history, JN and ISIS are largely in dispute over how to attain the dream.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said that the police would only act against ISIS supporters if they were a threat to national security.

"We will closely monitor individuals participating in the ISIL movement, and will assess whether or not they will pose threats when they return," he said.

The BNPT's deputy for international cooperation, Harry Purwanto, meanwhile, warned of the possibility that Indonesians fighting alongside Palestinians in Gaza would also be lured into joining ISIS.

"The situation in Gaza has ignited the fighting spirit in some Indonesians. Later on, certain parties may persuade them to go to Iraq," he said.