MAKASSAR, located in South Sulawesi, has a reputation of being a hotbed of Islamic radicalism.
Over the years, it has attracted the attention of Islamic militants such as Abubakar Ba’asyir and Agus Dwikarna.
Abubakar Ba’asyir, who heads the Jemaah Islamiah with links to al-Qaeda, is now being detained in Jakarta.
Agus Dwikarna, who led the militant Laskar Jundullah (Army of Allah), is now serving a 17-year jail term in the Philippines for illegal possession of explosives and suspected involvement in bombings in Manila and Jakarta.
Laskar Jundullah achieved notoriety when its 50,000 members forcibly raided hotels for American tourists in 2002.
One Malaysian leader who has made the acquaintance of this group of Islamic radicals is acting PAS president Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang, regarded as a party hardliner.
The Mentri Besar of Terengganu and MP for Marang is said to have attended a three-day Islamic congress in Makassar in October 2000.
The congress was a follow-up to a series of meetings of mujahidin in Yogyakarta to “integrate the aims and actions of all mujahidin to implement Islamic law.”
The meeting of radicals was recently reported in a respectable academic magazine, Inside Indonesia, and written by two Indonesian academicians, Dias Pradadimara and Burhan Junedding.
In the October-December 2002 issue, the two writers reported that quasi-military groups from all over South Sulawesi were present.
The article said that the congress was “tightly guarded, not by the police or the army, but by a paramilitary security team known as Laskar Jundullah, allegedly to prevent infiltration.”
Following the congress, the participants decided to pursue the “final goal of implementing Islamic law in South Sulawesi.”
Participants, they wrote, included Abubakar Ba’asyir, Agus Dwikarna and Abdul Hadi Awang, “a charismatic figure from the Malaysian opposition Islamic party PAS.”
Dias Pradadimara, when contacted by The Star, said the meeting, held at Hotel Berlian, and Hadi’s presence were widely reported by the local newspapers, Fajar and Pedoman Rakyat.
The Laskar Jundullah, it decided at the meeting, was also to become part of the Preparatory Committee for the Implementation of Islamic Law – Komite Persiapan Penegakan Syariat Islam or KPPSI.
“The KPPSI has close connections with various anti-immorality and anti-crime groups,” the two academicians wrote, saying they were “basically all-male vigilante/paramilitary bands, armed with sticks and machetes.”
The two Universitas Hasanuddin lecturers said the arrest of Agus Dwikarna had hampered the movement “but the KPPSI itself is now busy trying to free Agus from jail, pushing its main agenda into the background.”
Agus, who was secretary-general of Majlis Mujahidin Indonesia, also attended the meeting of Rabitul Muhajidin (RAM) near the International Islamic University in Petaling Jaya.
Those present included Hambali (also known as Riduan Isamuddin), the mastermind of JI and al-Qaeda’s operations leader in Southeast Asia, Abubakar Ba’asyir, Agus Dwikarna and Nik Adli Nik Aziz – the head of Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) and son of Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat.
Following three RAM meetings, terrorists planted a bomb outside the Philippine ambassador’s house in Jakarta on Aug 20, killing two and injuring 20.
RAM was a regional alliance of jihad or mujahiddin groups headed by Hambali.
But in the Dec 10-16, 2002, edition of Tempo magazine, Agus denied attending any RAM meeting to discuss jihad (holy war).
He, however, admitted going to Malaysia in 2000 “to invite ustad (teacher) Abdul Hadi Awang to attend the Islamic congress in Sulawesi.”
Recently, at a seminar on terrorism in Singapore, Dr Leonard Sebastian, a senior fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) said the JI was not the only threat.
He said it was important to monitor closely organisations such as the MMI, headed by Abubakar Ba’asyir, Laskar Jundullah and KPPSI.
“The success of such organisations in utilising Indonesian democracy as a cloak of respectability to engage in militant activities is likely to spawn more groups,” he said.
It had led to the creation of the Taleban brigade in the city of Tasikmalaya in west Java or websites like the al-Katibul Maut al-Alamiya (International Death Brigade), he wrote.
Besides Nik Adli, the other PAS members arrested for involvement with KMM included Perak youth chief Ahmad Tajuddin Abu Bakar while Sungai Benut youth chief Noorashid Sakhid has been placed under restriction orders.
Also detained under the ISA for alleged KMM activities are Hazmi Ishak, a PAS member, and Zainon Ismail, who fought in Afghanistan and a former Kedah PAS branch leader.