Emma Connors, Singapore/Jakarta – The Indonesian extremist who is believed to have led the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people – including 88 Australians – will finally face a court this week.
Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, will come before a US military commission in Guantanamo Bay on Monday, along with two associates.
All three are members of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group behind both the nightclub bombings in Kuta, Bali, and a deadly attack at the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta the following year.
Hambali was arrested 18 years ago in Thailand in a joint Thai-US operation. His trial comes amid fears of more deadly attacks after a suicide bomber killed at least 85 in Kabul on Thursday and a revenge drone strike by the US military.
Indonesian authorities outlawed JI in 2008, but the group remains a threat, according to the country's National Counter-Terrorism Agency.
On Friday the NCTA's deputy for international cooperation, Andhika Chrisnayudhanto, said JI was "more structured and organised" than Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) which is affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). He said some recent arrests by the anti-terrorism squad, Densus 88, were of individuals linked to JI.
Hambali tops the NCTA's list of 417 suspected terrorists from 99 different organisations. Soon after his arrest, US president George W Bush pledged to hand the prisoner over to Indonesia once US investigators had finished questioning him but the promised transfer never occurred.
Second on the list is Hambali's co-accused in the Bali attacks, Aris Sumarsono, alias Daud Zulkarnaen. Hambali's younger brother, Gun Gun Rusman Gunawan, is another suspected terrorist.
In January, the cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, cofounder and leader of JI, was released from jail in West Java. He was sentenced to 15 years after he was convicted on terrorism charges but served only 10. At the time, Australia's foreign minister, Marise Payne, said the release would be "deeply distressing" to the families and friends of the 88 Australians killed in 2002 and subsequent terrorist attacks.
Bashir and his sons Abdul Rosyid Ridho Ba'asyir and Abdul Rahim Ba'asyir are also on Indonesia's list, In the statement, they are referred to as the founders of JI and Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT).
Jamaah Ansharusy Syariah, an offshoot of the group founded by Bashir's sons, have celebrated the Taliban's taking of Kabul. In a statement, the group said it welcomed "the victory of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan fighters".
There are mixed views on what impact the Taliban's return to power will have on Islamic extremists in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.
In the decade ending 2010, hundreds died across Indonesia in terrorist bomb attacks linked to organised Islamic groups. Stepped-up security and policing efforts in recent years appear to have altered the pattern. Some lone-wolf attacks – not claimed by a terrorist organisation but linked to extremist beliefs – have persisted, such as the stabbing of Minister Wiranto in October 2019 that was carried out by a husband a wife team.
This year, on March 28, the first bomb in Indonesia to target a house of worship killed the two perpetrators, members of the JAD. Indonesian police say suspects questioned after a recent arrest revealed JI had planned an attack on the nation's Independence Day, August 9.
There are concerns that, despite the Taliban's undertakings to the US, Afghanistan will once again become a breeding ground for terrorism. However, Abu Tholut, a former leader of JI said history showed the opposite was true. Since his release from prison in 2015, the one-time jihadist has campaigned against terrorism, condemned suicide bombings, and participated in deradicalisation programs.
It was defeats by Islamic forces, not victories, that sparked attacks Abu Tholut said in a discussion organised by the University of Indonesia's School of Strategic and Global Studies. He cited the victory of the leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, in 1979 which sparked euphoria in many countries, including Indonesia. However, no terrorist movement emerged.
In 1992, the Mujahideen's emergence as the dominant force in Afghanistan also had no impact. It was the arrival of US and NATO forces nine years later, in the wake of 9/11, that triggered a dramatic increase in terrorism, Abu Tholut said.
"It means – this is psychology – victories don't trigger anything that is terrorism in nature. What does trigger this is news of defeat or injustice; sad news," he said.
After the ISIS-K group claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing at Kabul airport last week, NCTA's Mr Anhika said the Indonesian government would be "very wary" of the movements of terror groups.
"I myself see in Afghanistan (the ISIS – Khorasan action) as an action that takes place in Afghanistan only with the current Afghan situation. It is unlikely that the ISIS-Khorasan action will spill over specifically to Indonesia," Mr Anhika said.