‘End Times’ Belief Spurred Indonesian Suicide Attacks

Three families who shocked Indonesia by blowing themselves up while attacking or planning to attack targets in Surabaya in May believed that the world would end in 2018 so they had to carry out suicide bombings to enter heaven, according to a new report by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.

On May 13, successive explosions erupted in three churches in the city, all carried out by family members. Dian Oeprianto invited his wife, Puji Restu, and their four children, the youngest of them 12 and 9, to carry out amaliah (terror attacks). The action killed at least 18 victims including six attackers.

Later the same Sunday, a bomb exploded prematurely in a flat in a low-cost apartment complex in Sidoarjo, near Surabaya, where Anton Febrianto and his family lived, killing Anton's wife and one of his daughters. Anton was shot dead by police. Three of his other children survived.

The next morning, Tri Murtiono and his family carried out another suicide bombing at the Surabaya police headquarters. Tri, his wife and two sons were killed, but his youngest daughter survived. Soon after the incident, the police revealed that the three families were members of the Jamaah Anshorud Daulah (JAD),a sect linked to the Islamic State. The families knew each other and often attended joint religious studies.

The Oct. 18 IPAC report revealed that the attack had been carefully prepared several months before the execution. Dian, the emir of JAD Surabaya, bought highly explosives triacetone triperoxide (TATP), known as "Mother of Satan" because of the amount of explosive power it produces, through an online supplier and thus escaped from police monitoring. He and his family were also active and mingled with their neighbors for months before the amaliah so they were not suspected.

Nevertheless, Dian actually continued to regularly attend Islamic studies with two other families and prepared a large number of high-explosive bombs, which he intended to explode himself and spread to other jihadist cells in East Java. He reportedly hoped that after the attack, other cells would imitate his action using the bombs he had made.

In the report, entitled "The Surabaya Bombings and the Future of ISIS in Indonesia," IPAC also related that Dita, Tri, Anton and Budi Satrio, the amir of JAD Sidoarjo, were students of Khalid Abu Bakar Besleme, known as a preacher who called for strict implementation of Islamic law. Khalid allegedly indoctrinated them with radical teachings, including teachings of the end of times, or messianism, to justify their terror attacks.

Khalid’s followers are said to believe the destruction of the world is imminent, with rampant corruption, increasing crime, the emergence of natural disasters, war and poverty, economic crisis and other events in various parts of the world. But only one blessed place would avoid the problems – the caliphate in Syria.

"According to a hadith, the stars would fall and a meteor would hit the earth in the East, causing a black cloud that would envelop the earth for 40 days, maybe longer. Transportation facilities would be destroyed, and all social activities would come to an end. Most of the world population would die except for those who happen to be in the country that was particularly blessed - and that was Sham, or greater Syria," IPAC wrote.

As the world grows more chaotic, according to their belief, God will send a savior or known as Imam Mahdi, who will lead a major war in Syria and its surroundings. At that time, humans would be separated into two opposing groups; those who join the Imam Mahdi and the followers of the dajjal (evil figures), often referred to as infidels and hypocrites. Only followers of Imam Mahdi were expected to survive because the leader would win and lead the world of the Khilafah.

"Over and over (Dita) stressed that the world would end in 2018 or 2019 and that everyone must prepare for the final battle between Islam and its enemies in which the Imam Mahdi would appear and lead the Islamic side to victory," IPAC said.

Therefore, the best place in the end times was said to be the blessed city of Sham, where the survivors could join and fight with Imam Mahdi. But was difficult to go to Syria after ISIS lost much of its territory and Turkey was increasingly strict in patrolling its borders. Dita therefore asked the study group participants to prepare themselves for the coming war by learning how to make bombs for use at home.

"Dita, Tri and Anton had wanted to bring their families to Syria, but that was now impossible. They worried that if they all died in the dukhan, there was no guarantee that they would enter heaven. The only way to ensure that they would die in a state of grace with all sins forgiven was to carry out a martyrdom attack before the black cloud came," said the report.

Another terrorist, Joko Sugito, became the mastermind behind the bombing of a church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan at the end of 2016. The bomb killed a toddler aged 2 years and injured three others. Joko is currently serving a seven-year sentence. In a South Jakarta Court in March, Joko, who worked as a vegetable seller, believed that he had to prepare himself to face a major war in the end times, including mastering war skills and making bombs.

Sholahuddin, a terrorism experts from the University of Indonesia (UI) said the end-time doctrine manipulated by ISIS inspired other militants to go to Syria, with more than 500 Indonesians having done so, according to National Police data.

"Not all people who want to go to Syria are supporters. Some of them only believe in prophecies about the end times. In the hadiths, Syria is considered a blessed place and the place of the appearance of Imam Mahdi," said Sholahuddin, who is also a researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Social Conflict Studies in UI.

Some people and families he met went to Syria after selling their property in Indonesia, confident to meet Imam Mahdi and live happily under the Islamic state, he said.

Former terrorist inmate Sofyan Tsauri said the majority of ISIS members had been indoctrinated with messianism and believed it in full. ISIS uses the same symbols depicted in hadiths including black flags, the preeminence of Imam Mahdi and the establishment of an Islamic state in Greater Syria.

"They (ISIS followers) use terms that are close to the savior's vision of the end of time," he said.

ISIS organization cells in Indonesia have long spread their understanding through the doctrine, mixing it with "takfiri understanding" -- the view that groups different from them were infidels who could be killed.

Syria as a blessed place in the end times is in accordance with the verses in the Qur'an and hadith. "In addition, it is said that at the end of time the Caliphate will stand. ISIS claims to be the khilafah minhaj 'ala nubuwwah,” or caliphate according to the procedures of the Prophet Muhammad, Sholahuddin said.