Bookshop owner who became a terrorist

Santoso, Indonesia's most wanted terrorist, used to to run an Islamic bookstore.

In 2012, he declared himself Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi Al Indunesi, or the commander of the East Indonesia Mujahideen Commandos, and declared all-out war on Detachment 88, the country's elite police counter- terrorism unit.

He is believed to have been behind several terrorist attacks, some of which killed police officers and people in Central Sulawesi.

Two years ago, as leader of the East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), Santoso pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He is said to have received funds from ISIS and was behind several threats issued last year, including a nine-minute video posted online that called for strikes on the Jakarta police and the presidential palace.

In March, the United States imposed a special terrorist designation on Santoso, opening the way for American law-enforcement action against him.

The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict had profiled him as an ambitious, but inexperienced, terrorist. But that had not stopped him from building a following with foreign fighters, such as Uighurs from Xinjiang in China.

Institute for International Peace Building director Taufik Andrie said the MIT would fight on. "They may retaliate... but it may not necessarily be any time soon," he said.

Francis Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline 'Bookshop owner who became a terrorist'. Print Edition | Subscribe