Rendi A. Witular
The Jakarta Post
January 25 2016
Unlike his contemporaries, cleric and terrorist convict Aman Abdurrahman has never seen war. He never fights along his fellow jihadists in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria or in any domestic sectarian conflict.
But Aman’s preaching is so contagious that Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the elder statesman of the regional terrorism network, has succumbed to his doctrine and authority.
Aman’s notoriety was recently extended with the alleged involvement of his followers in an attack targeting police and foreigners in a Central Jakarta district packed with shopping centers, embassies, the UN headquarters and government offices on Jan. 14. The attack killed four civilians and four perpetrators.
Bahrun Naim, who is suspected by the police to have orchestrated the attack and has been in Raqqa, Syria, with the Islamic State (IS) movement since early 2015, was a member of Aman’s prayer community before leaving Indonesia.
Afif, also known as Sunakim, identified on the day of the attack wearing a DJ Tiesto shirt, shared Aman’s ideology as he joined Aman’s terrorist training camp in Aceh in 2010, as well as his prayer community.
‘The perpetrators shared a similar doctrine that has been widely preached by Aman,’ National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Anton Charliyan said recently.
While the police have not uncovered any evidence to suggest that Aman orchestrated the attack, many in the intelligence community have pointed to Aman’s proliferating doctrine and his ability to win over many influential figures in the terror network as invigorating for the terrorism movement.
It was not until the establishment of IS in 2013 that Aman and his takfiri doctrine (an offshoot of fundamentalist Salafism that accuses other Muslims of apostasy, and therefore liable to be killed) gained ground in the domestic violent jihad community long dominated by al-Qaeda’s Salafism doctrine.
Takfiri is the prime doctrine of IS, a terrorist organization that has occupied territory in Syria and Iraq in its quest to repeat the glory of the Islamic caliphates.
Introduced by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2001, takfiri is represented by his group Tawhid wal-Jihad, and was quickly adopted by Aman for distribution in Indonesia through Aman’s version of Tawhid wal-Jihad.
Unlike Ba’asyir’s al-Qaeda splinter, Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), which focused its attacks primarily on Western interests, Aman and his followers have declared war on anyone, including fellow Muslims, who refuse to follow their doctrine.
However, Aman’s track record during Ba’asyir’s heyday between 2000 and 2011 was not as impressive as his JI fellows.
Aman was sentenced in 2004 to seven years in prison for a failed terror plot. The bomb, prepared by his group, was prematurely detonated in the terrorists’ hiding spot in Cimanggis, Depok, West Java.
During his time in prison, Aman met with Ba’asyir, who spent time in prison for terrorism between 2005 and 2006. In 2008, Aman was released after receiving remissions for good behavior.
Soon after his release, Aman collaborated with Ba’asyir to form a joint terrorism training camp in Aceh in 2010 that united the different factions of terrorism groups. Due to the Aceh camp incident, Aman and Ba’asyir received nine and 15 years in prison, respectively, and are now detained in a supposedly maximum-security prison on Nusakambangan, an island off the shores of Cilacap, Central Java.
But while Aman is kept behind bars, the police have accused his followers of involvement in several terror plots, including a suicide bombing at a mosque inside a police headquarters in Cirebon, West Java, that only claimed the life of the perpetrator in 2011.
His doctrine is also blamed for a string of attacks that killed several police officers, including one in Pamulang, South Tangerang, Banten, in 2013.
When IS was declared in 2013, Aman used his flare to lure others into joining his group, particularly JI hard-liners who longed for action at a time when Ba’asyir’s influence was waning.
Encouraged by Aman, Ba’asyir agreed to pledge his allegiance to IS in mid-2014, enraging his own family and loyalists who had long provided support to al-Qaeda splinter faction Jabhat al-Nusra in its fight against Syrian government forces.
‘Aman is IS’ master ideologue in Indonesia. He has long preached the takfiri doctrine, and IS has served his cause,’ former National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chairman Ansyaad Mbai said recently.
‘He can easily lure people into his influence through his eloquence in preaching. Many extremists have high respect for Aman for his extensive knowledge of the religion as his fluency in Arabic is unrivaled by his peers,’ he said.
After the merger of many terrorist factions into Tawhid wal-Jihad, Aman renamed his organization Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) to propagate IS ideology and recruitment in Indonesia.
Through his group, Aman manages his followers, conducts recruitment for IS and spreads IS propaganda behind bars.
Aman, also known as Oman Rochman, is among the few individuals in Indonesia trusted by the IS hierarchy, with their recommendations and schemes considered sufficient without additional references from IS headquarters, according to research by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC).
According to the National Police, Aman’s JAD has produced four prominent figures: Santoso, a former JI member who leads the Eastern Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) in an insurgency movement in Poso, Central Sulawesi; Bachrumsyah, commander of the Western Indonesia Mujahidin (MIB), who has joined IS in Syria but still has pools of followers in Greater Jakarta; Bahrum Naim, the recent attack orchestrator; and Salim Mubarak At Tamimi, known also as Abu Jandal, who has also joined IS in Syria.
The police suspect Bachrumsyah, Bahrum and Abu Jandal of collaborating from Syria to direct more attacks in Indonesia through their followers.
Bachrumsyah, a dropout communications student from the State Islamic University (UIN) Syarif Hidayatullah in South Tangerang, Banten, is among Aman’s staunchest disciples recruited through his prayer community in Pamulang.
In July 2014, Bachrumsyah uploaded a video to YouTube inciting Indonesians to join IS.
Similar to Bachrumsyah, Bahrum was also recruited by Aman through his prayer community in Bandung, West Java, between 2008 and 2010. According to the National Police, Bahrum often visited Aman in Nusakambangan to hear him preach.
Born in Sumedang, West Java, on Jan. 5, 1972, Aman was mostly educated in Islamic boarding schools (pesantren). He earned a Bachelor’s degree from the Islamic and Arabic College of Indonesia (LIPIA) in Jakarta after seven years of study.
The college is a branch of the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh.
After graduating, he served as a lecturer and preacher at the campus and at other education institutions in Jakarta, Bogor and Bandung, West Java. However, he was dismissed in early 2000 for his radical adoption of the takfiri doctrine.
With Aman’s doctrine proven to be contagious and detrimental, as evidenced by the Jan. 14 attack, the prison authority has finally confined Aman into an isolation cell on Nusakambangan.
Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian recently acknowledged the extent of threat that the takfiri doctrine will pose in encouraging future attacks, and the need for the public to become more aware of such teachings.
‘The movement is more dangerous than those inspired by al-Qaeda. The takfiri doctrine means that everyone is permitted to be killed whereas, al-Qaeda prioritizes attacks on Western symbols,’ said Tito, who has been handling Aman’s cases since 2003.