Thursday, January 14, 2016

Homegrown jihadi intellectual behind Islamic State attack on Indonesia

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Seven years ago, Bahrun Naim was quietly running an Internet cafe in the small Indonesian city of Solo.

On Thursday he was identified by police as the mastermind behind the deadly attack on Jakarta claimed by Islamic State, pulling the strings from Raqqa, the radical group's de facto capital in Syria.

In between, Naim was arrested in 2011 for illegal arms possession and jailed for three years, and police say that since then he has emerged as a key player in militant networks that have sprouted around Solo and across Central Java.

A year ago, he left for Syria to join the frontlines of Islamic State, and police believe Naim was closely involved in coordinating Thursday's assault.

Five of the attackers and two civilians were killed in Islamic State's first strike against Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation where the group wants to establish an Asian beachhead for its "caliphate".

There had been hints of what was to come for weeks.

After the coordinated attacks across Paris in November, the militant intellectual published a blog in which he explained to his followers how it was easy to move jihad from "guerrilla warfare" in Indonesia's equatorial jungles to a city.

Reuters contacted Naim on Nov. 24 on Telegram social messaging, using details provided by one of his acquaintances. In that exchange, he said there were more than enough Islamic State supporters to "carry out an action" in Indonesia.

"Just waiting for the right trigger," the man identifying himself as Naim said.

Naim could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Intelligence experts say that, not long after that Telegram exchange, intelligence officials began to pick up talk in social messaging chatrooms that an attack on Indonesia was imminent.

"Chatter among Islamists began to become more organized last month and there were discussions for the first time of a multiple attack," said a Jakarta-based security adviser, who monitors radical group discussions on mobile messaging services for the government.

Counter-terrorism officials believe there are at least 1,000 sympathizers of the radical jihadist group across Indonesia.