Indonesian police arrest Jemaah Islamiah linked terrorist Zulkarnaen after 17-year hunt

Zulkarnaen, whose real name was Aris Sumarsono, is an Afghan-trained militant. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB/INTERNET

JAKARTA - Indonesian police said yesterday that it has arrested suspected Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leader Zulkarnaen, the man said to be behind the 2002 Bali bombing.

Police said that he was arrested "without resistance" late on Thursday (Dec 10) in Purbolinggo, East Lampung regency, Lampung on Sumatra Island.

His house was also raided.

Zulkarnaen, whose real name was Aris Sumarsono, 57, is an Afghan-trained militant who was believed to lead the elite squad involved in the suicide bombing at Jakarta's JW Marriott Hotel that killed 12 people in 2003.

He also allegedly made the bombs that killed 202 people in Bali in 2002. He had been on the run since the Jakarta bombing.

Police said he acted as the commander of the JI regional terror network, and set up a squad of fighters known as Laskar Khos, or Special Force, involved in the Bali bombing.

This unit was also allegedly responsible for the sectarian violent conflicts in Poso, Central Sulawesi and Ambon in Maluku.

Zulkarnaen led military intelligence operations for the JI. Along with Umar Patek, a field commander in the 2002 Bali bombing, he managed to regroup their followers quickly whenever a key associate was caught or killed.

Zulkarnaen was also reportedly an Al-Qaeda pointman in South-east Asia.

His arrest comes after the police's anti-terrorism squad Densus 88 arrested another terrorist, Taufik Bulaga, or Upik Lawanga, in Lampung in late November.

Taufik was an experienced bomb maker and a close associate of dead JI commander Noordin Top.

Zulkarnaen had helped Taufik to lie low, police said.

The police stepped up its anti-terrorism work following a recent attack in Central Sulawesi.

On Nov 27, four members of a Christian family in Lemban Tongoa, a remote village in Central Sulawesi, were killed, with two of them beheaded. Villagers' homes, including those used for mass prayers, were torched.

The 11-member Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) group, led by terrorist ring-leader Ali Kalora, was suspected in the killings.

MIT militants pledge allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis), and its former leader Santoso was once Indonesia's most-wanted terrorist. He was killed in July 2016 following a massive manhunt.

In a separate development, the police yesterday arrested firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab for allegedly flouting Covid-19 restrictions by holding events that attracted thousands of attendees in Jakarta, his lawyer said as reported by Reuters.

Rizieq is the leader of Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), an organisation of anti-vice radicals, who returned from self-exile in Saudi Arabia in November.

His lawyer said a pre-trial motion will be filed to request for his release.

Rizieq is charged with the obstruction of law enforcement and incitement of criminal acts, the Jakarta police said as quoted by local media.

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