Jakarta – Jafar Umar Thalib, former leader of the now-defunct Laskar Jihad paramilitary group, died of a heart attack at the age of 58 on Sunday.
"Innalillahi wainnailaihirojiun [We belong to Allah and to Allah we shall return], ustad Jafar Umar Thalib has passed away at the Harapan Kita Heart Hospital. Hopefully he [died] khusnul khotimah [with blessings ahead]," Jafar's lawyer Achmad Michdan said on Sunday, as quoted by tribunnews.com.
Laskar Jihad was a Yogyakarta-based radical Islamic group that supplied volunteers to fight alongside Muslims against Christians during sectarian conflicts in Maluku in 1999-2000.
In 2002, Jafar was tried for provoking violence, spreading hatred against the government and defaming then-president Megawati Soekarnoputri.
The charges were based on a tape recording of his speech before 2,500 people at the Al Fatah Mosque in the Maluku capital of Ambon on April 26, 2002.
Two days after the sermon, a group of unidentified men assaulted the predominantly Christian village of Soya and killed 13 people.
The East Jakarta District Court acquitted Jafar of all charges in January 2003.
More recently, the Makassar District Court found Jafar guilty of destruction of property in Koya Barat, Jayapura, Papua, last month and sentenced him to five months imprisonment.
As reported by kompas.com, Jafar and six of his followers had destroyed speakers belonging to a resident, claiming they had been blaring music that had disturbed morning prayers at a nearby mosque. (kmt)