Last Updated: Monday, 19 September 2016, 15:00 GMT

Indonesia: Lone-Wolf Attacks Show Need for Greater Deradicalization Efforts

Publisher Jamestown Foundation
Author Alexander Sehmer
Publication Date 16 September 2016
Cite as Jamestown Foundation, Indonesia: Lone-Wolf Attacks Show Need for Greater Deradicalization Efforts, 16 September 2016, available at: [accessed 20 September 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Link to original story on Jamestown website

On August 28, an 18-year-old Indonesian man attempted to stab a Roman Catholic priest during a church service in Medan, in Indonesia's North Sumatra province, an attack reminiscent of one carried out by Islamic State (IS) sympathizers in France in July in which an 84-year-old priest had his throat slit.

In the failed Medan attack, however, the priest was only lightly injured. A homemade bomb, which the assailant reportedly carried in his backpack, failed to explode, and the man was detained by worshipers and later arrested (Jakarta Post, August 28). The suspect appears to have had no established links to IS, but was, authorities said, "obsessed" with international terrorism. Police reportedly found a note in his bag that read, "I love al-Baghdadi," a reference to the IS leader (Jakarta Post, August 29).

As a result, Indonesia's National Counterterrorism Agency has probed a possible connection to Muhammad Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant thought to be in Raqqa, Syria (Jakarta Post, September 8). Naim, who was arrested in 2010 and spent time in jail for the illegal possession of ammunition, has been accused of masterminding a deadly attack in the capital Jakarta on January 14 (Al Jazeera, January 15). More recently he has also been implicated in a failed suicide bombing at a police station in Solo, in Central Java, carried out on July 5. Naim allegedly taught the attacker, the only casualty in the blast, how to build a bomb (Straits Times, July 5).

Many of Naim's recruits have been drawn from Solo, from local mosques and an anti-vice campaign group known as Team Hisbah, which functioned as kind of vigilante militia attacking brothels and breaking up drinking parties. The Solo attacker, whose failed bombing efforts drew ridicule on social media, has been identified as Nur Rohman, an inexperienced Team Hisbah member.

Like Rohman, the suspect in the Medan church attack seems to have been equally inexperienced and just as unsuccessful, but the connection with Naim, whose associates appear to come most frequently from his hometown of Solo, is unclear. Naim is active online, but he is far from the only Indonesian militant with a network in the country and as the existence of groups such as Team Hisbah make clear, there is a relatively large pool of potential recruits from which these various organizations can draw.

While Indonesian counter-terrorism efforts have reduced the effectiveness of more established jihadi organizations such as Jemmah Islamiyah, lone-wolf attackers inspired by Naim and his ilk pose a different threat and underscore the importance of greater deradicalization efforts.

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