NEWS

His New Jihad

By Matthew Harwood

Indonesia is using a controversial approach to counterterrorism: it's allowing one of its worst perpetrators of terrorism to speak out against jihad and the lives it destroys.

It's all part of Detachment 88's—an elite counterterrorist police force— strategy to combat jihadism in the world's most populous Muslim country.

Ali Imron was one of the Bail Bombers, who on the evening of October 12, 2002, helped blow up a night club frequented by Western tourists, killing more than 200 people, 88 of them Australians. Remorseful for his actions, he has helped Indonesian police hunt down other jihadists since 2004.

Now he's bent on another jihad, reports Australia's ABC News:

Indonesian police say he is now a potent force for counter-terrorism, and they want Australia to know how Imron is working to stop further violence.

In a Jakarta hotel room, flanked by a prison guard, Imron was calm and quietly focused as he explained his new form of jihad.

"I help police because I know what the terrorists think," he said.

"I know how they will try to get their weapons and explosives. I know what kind of place they will target for what kind of action and I know how they would carry that out.

"I know how to hide from the police on the run, how the terrorists recruit new members and who is most vulnerable to the radical message.

"I am giving all this information to police so I can stop violence and terrorism."

Imron says he also has influence outside of prison and to help combat jihadism he is using media to steer other young men away from the path he chose.

He says students at his family's Islamic boarding school would become suicide bombers if he asked them to. Instead, Imron sends them the opposite message.

"Since I was jailed in Bali, I've been writing a book and other materials about my ideas," he said.

"Also every time my family or friends visit me, or I send a message to others outside prison, I always say it was a mistake to carry out the bombings. It was the wrong kind of jihad."

Part of Imron's new type of jihad, or spiritual struggle in God's name, is sending cassettes to his family's east Java school.

But there's sibling rivalry he must contend with also.

Imron's brother, Ali Ghufron, otherwise know as Mukhlas, also was one of the Bali bombers but he is unrepentant and determined as ever to spread the message of violent jihad. He also creates audiocassettes for the Islamic boarding school back home, but they carry the opposite message: Become terrorists.

Imron is stoic about the ideological battle he's waging against jihadism and his own brother.

"We will have to wait and see who wins this battle for influence."

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