Indonesian terrorist bombings : fact and fiction

Believe it or not, one theory is that JI is an American creation designed to humiliate the Muslims.

NEWS ANALYSIS

This is fiction.

The Oct 12 Bali bombings and the attack on the JW Marriott Hotel here last week were the work of the CIA.

The spy outfit recruited and trained Indonesians to be terrorists for an organisation called Jemaah Islamiah (JI) that had the seal of approval from President George W. Bush.

The CIA flew in its agents to mastermind two deadly attacks on Indonesia in just 10 months. And terrorist fugitive Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali, and the other thugs perpetrating violence in Indonesia today are all on the CIA’s payroll.

And what is Washington’s grand strategy in all this? To discredit Islam and destabilise Indonesia to let the United States take control of the country.

It all seems far-fetched, but some people here don’t think it’s fiction.

One is Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the JI terror network. He blames the Americans and their ‘Zionist conspirators’ for secretly plotting his arrest and planning the terrorist strikes.

Another is Dien Syamsuddin, an executive of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s highest Islamic body, and a member of the 25-million-strong Muhammadiyah group.

The American-trained Dien and other hardliners associated with him have been at the forefront accusing the US of being behind the Bali and Marriott attacks.

They are convinced Washington planned the bombings to prod reluctant countries, including Indonesia, into supporting the war on terrorism.

Mr Dien said: ‘What is JI? It is an American creation to humiliate Muslims to weaken Indonesia so that they can dominate us.’

It is no surprise that there is this discourse in Indonesia today.

Shaping the views is a deep-seated antipathy towards the West, and the US in particular. Few of Indonesia’s radical groups are likely to change their ideas following the Bali attacks.

Underlying such perceptions is a strong dose of Javanese thinking and culture.

History has shown Indonesians are more than willing to accept a grand international conspiracy against them.

Ingrained in society here is the concept of kambing hitam, or scapegoat – someone or something Indonesians can always shift blame to, usually external.

Driving much of this reflexive nationalist and cultural psyche is politics. Some politicians are all too eager to jump on the bandwagon to score points with an increasingly assertive Muslim ground ahead of the 2004 elections.

That is why security czar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has been one of the most level-headed Indonesian ministers in dealing with terrorism, had to come out openly to brush aside all the conspiracy theories swirling in Jakarta.

‘This is the best moment for Indonesia as a nation to collectively express its commitment and responsibility against terrorism,’ he said on Wednesday. ‘We must not be defeated by terrorism, it’s time to unite to fight it.’

Moderate Islamic figures such as Abdurrahman Wahid and Nurcholish Madjid have called on the police not to identify the bombing suspects as JI members until they have sufficient evidence.

But the time lag from denial to accepting that the JI terror network exists is shortening. The local media is the clearest indication of that change.

From screaming headlines of a conspiracy against Indonesia, they have swung the other way to acknowledging JI’s presence in Indonesia and the threat it poses.

The police are dealing with facts. And there are a number in last week’s attack in the capital – all of which point to JI’s involvement.

Fact 1: Indonesian police have already arrested more than 30 JI members for their roles in a string of attacks in the country. Several are now standing trial for last year’s Bali bombings.

Fact 2: The suspected bomber in the Marriott explosion was recruited by JI for the attack. Two terrorists in custody now have identified the 28-year-old Asmar Latin Sami, whose severed head was found at the site.

Asmar is believed to have graduated from Bashir’s religious boarding school in Central Java and had close links with top JI militants, including fugitives Dulmatin, alias Nova, and Malaysian Azahari Bin Husin.

Fact 3: Lending greater credence to JI’s involvement in the Marriott attack was similarity with the Bali blasts.

In both attacks, the militants used the same kind of explosives and tried to scrape off the identification numbers on the vehicles used. The Marriott bombers used a mobile phone to set it off – as in Bali.

All indications so far point to a strike by homegrown Islamic activists, perhaps with links to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda.

There is nothing at this stage to link the terror attacks with the CIA.

That is a fact.

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