Book Bombs In Indonesia

The war by Indonesian jihadis on presumed apostates and other enemies took an ominous turn this week with the mailing of parcel bombs to three targets. The bombs raise fears that home-grown terrorists are broadening their attacks to include those who either battle terrorism directly or support a liberal interpretation of Islam.

An Indonesian antiterror official said late Wednesday that the Jemaah Islamiyah jihadi group, to which militant cleric Abu Bashir Bakar is closely tied, is behind the'bombs. Bashir is now on trial in a Jakarta courtroom, charged with inciting terror by supporting a terrorist training camp in Aceh.

Although Indonesia has been the focus of a long series of bombings of hotels and nightclubs including one that took the lives of 202 people and injured 240 more in Bali in 2002, they have not previously targeted single individuals.

None of the bombs succeeded in maiming or killing their intended targets although one policeman attempting to defuse a package had his hand blown off and two fellow officers were injured. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Wednesday ordered a probe of the bomb attacks and expressed sympathy for the victims and their families.

Yudhoyono has come under increasing criticism for what is perceived to be a lack of political will in seeking to rein in what is believe to be a small minority of fundamentalists in the community. Islamists have steadily used their influence in government to provide a legal foundation for many of the outrages that are now taking place.

As an example of the new strategy, one of the bombs was mailed to former Commanding General Gories Mere, who previously headed Indonesia's elite Densus 88 counter-terrorism unit. Abu Bakar Bashir has labeled the unit as a tool of the United States, Australia and their allies. Bashir has also accused Densus 88 of being made up of Christian officers.

Mere led a series of successful raids against extremists, many of whom have been killed by police. He now heads the National Narcotics Agency.

Bashir's trial has in fact become a lightning rod for extremist forces. The 72-year-old cleric is accused of fomenting violent attacks and running a training camp for militants in Aceh Province. He has been described as the ideological godfather of the violent Jemaah Islamiyah Islamic group, which is believed to have been behind a wide range of terror attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings.

Bashir has issued a continuing series of outbursts from the courtroom, including one on Monday when he stormed out of the courtroom after his lawyer was expelled for the day as well.

The first of the bombs was sent to a liberal Islamic scholar Ulil Abshar Abdalla, the co-founder of the Liberal Islamic Network, who has long faced death threats from radicals. Ulil wasn't at his office, however. Others became suspicious and reported the package to police, who attempted to defuse it. The device exploded inside the network's office in East Jakarta. It was that bomb that blew off the hand of the officer attempting to defuse it and injured his two colleagues.

The third bomb was sent to Yapto Suryosumarno, the chairman of Pemuda Pancasila, or Pancasila Youth. Pancasila is Indonesia's moderate official philosophy, stressing belief in one god, democracy, social justice and just and civilized humanity.

Police were said to be hunting Taufik Bulaga, alias Upik Lawang, a bomb-maker who in the past has specialized in “booby trap” bombs that can be concealed inside flashlights and other devices, including door jams, which exploded when the doors were opened. He remains at large.

The book bombs are just the latest in a series of disturbing events that have shaken Indonesia's image as a moderate Islamic nation. In February, an outraged mob of Muslim zealots descended on the compound of a small group of Ahmadiyah believers, burning them out and chasing them through nearby fields. Ahmadis believe their founder was a successor to the Prophet Mohammed. Three of the Ahmadis were run down by the mob and beaten to death. Two days later, a similar mob gathered outside the courthouse in another central Java town demanding death for a man accused of blasphemy for disturbing leaflets deemed to be insulting to Islam. Frustrated, they burned down two churches and rampaged through the town.

Also there is the case of Murhali Barda, a former chapter leader of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front, also known by its Indonesian language initials as the FPI, who was on trial for inciting violence, and who from the courtroom warned the Batak Christian Protestant Church against holding prayers in Bekasi, a predominantly Muslim district in West Java. He was suspended from the Islamic organization after his arrest in September.

The FPI in particular has increasingly worried members of other religious faiths and moderates, accosting women wearing what the organization deems provocative dress, raiding nightclubs and intimidating non-Muslims. So far, to the dismay of many, authorities have refused to crack down on the FPI. In fact Yudhoyono late last year appointed Timur Prodopo to head Indonesia's National Police despite the fact that he publicly maintains close connections to the FPI.

Pradopo at the time defended his relationship with the FPI, saying that: "We should be close to all [groups] to maintain security in this country."