Sunday, June 26, 2011
Exclusive: Indonesian Terrorist Leader’s Son Set To Take Reins
The man feared as the new face of terrorism finally enters the small room in central Java through a path his followers create as they shuffle back to let him through.
He is 30 minutes late. “He’s a very busy man,” explained a boy, barely 15, who had acted as a messenger, announcing my arrival and using the delay to practise his English and ask about Australia. He is talking about Abdul Rohim, the son of jailed Jemaah Islamiyah leader Abu Bakar Bashir, and the man now considered crown prince of the jihad movement.
Tall, charismatic and intelligent, Rohim is the mirror opposite of the frail, ranting Bashir. It is for this reason that analysts consider him one of the biggest threats in the violent jihad movement with the ability to far surpass the influence of his father. He is also apparently untouchable. Despite being an accused terrorist and the alleged point man between al-Qaida and South-East Asian terror groups, Rohim has remained out of reach of authorities. The 32-year-old is believed to have lived with September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheaikh Mohammed and is accused of being an active member of al-Qaida during the New York attacks, running a militant cell in Pakistan and serving as one of the terrorist group’s propaganda men in both Kandahar and Karachi.
When the allegations are put to him, it is the only time in the hour-long meeting that he breaks into English, throwing his head back and laughing: “They lie to you! If I’m connected to al-Qaida, they should have arrested me a long time ago, right?” Untilrecently, Rohim had been operating in the shadows but he agreed to be interviewed if the meeting took place in Ngruki, in central Java, at his father’s al-Mukmin school, the alma mater of a string of terrorists, including executed Bali bombers, brothers Mukhlas and Amrozi.
Above one of the rooms is a sign: “Death in the way of Allah is our highest aspiration.”
Nearby, two boys are sitting on their father’s lap, reading a book with pictures of Bashir on its cover. Rohim’s handshake is firm and he holds your gaze longer than is comfortable. It is a week since Bashir was jailed and he says Indonesian Muslims feel the anger of betrayal — by the Indonesian Government and by the West, including Australia.
“Australia represents the West and its allies, it’s very much anti-Islam,” he says.
“This sentiment was shown when John Howard campaigned fiercely against Abu Bakar Bashir, saying that he’s a terrorist and Indonesia was a hotbed for terrorists.
These were obvious efforts done by Australia to fight against Islam in Indonesia so we see Australia is no different to the West and its allies, particularly the United States. “From our understanding, based on the Koran, Allah (God) told us that infidels will always try to fight Muslims, trying to rip you from your religion.
Perhaps you’ll get a different version if you ask Australia about this, but we believe the Koran states that they will continue to fight us, trying to make us leave the Koran, to leave sharia, to leave Allah and the Prophet’s teachings. That’s information we received from our God.”
It is a battle Rohim believes will never end. But unlike his father, he says (at least publicly) that Christianity and Islam can co-exist if the rights of Muslims are respected. Australia could work towards this, he says, by introducing sharia courts.
“I think it’s a right that should be given by the Australian Government,” he says. With Bashir behind bars, Rohim is being seen as the anointed leader of a new generation of extremists, a man poised to take over from where his father left off.
But it is his past that has authorities worried and has him elevated on several terrorist watch lists. His accusers include notorious terrorist Hambali’s younger brother Gun-Gun Rusman Gunawan and convicted Australian terrorist Jack Roche, who claimed at his trial that Rohim had played an important role in Pakistan between 1999 and 2002 and had picked him up at the airport in Karachi and took him to meet Khalid.
Rohim denies all the allegations, saying his accusers were corrupt. But there is no denying his long-terms links to militants. He examined Amrozi and Muklas’ bodies after they were shot by firing squad, saying they were smiling and smelled of an “extraordinary perfume” that was not from the soap used to clean them. If the West thought the executions would extinguish the jihad, he says, they were wrong.
“Allah said that they (Christians) will continue to fight against you until the end of time,” he says. “We believe that it is them who do not believe in tolerance. The infidels have always caused disturbance against Muslims. Muslims believe that if we get attacked then we have to rise up for jihad. The resurgence of Islam for jihad is actually caused by the infidels, we didn’t start this uproar.” The West Australian Steve Pennells