BALI, Indonesia (AP) — Ten years after terrorist attacks at two Bali nightclubs killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists, Indonesia has won international praise for its counterterrorism efforts. Militant organizations have been fractured and many of their charismatic leaders have been killed or jailed.
But an Associated Press analysis shows the number of strikes within the country has actually risen, especially since 2010, when radical imams called on their followers to focus on domestic targets rather than Westerners. The more recent attacks have been conducted with less expertise, and the vast majority of victims have been Indonesians.
"It turns out that the terrorism problem in Indonesia is not finished yet," said Maj. Gen. Tito Karnavian, a former counterterrorism official recently appointed police chief of Papua province. "The quality of their attacks has decreased, but the quantity has increased."
Since Oct. 12, 2002, when the Bali attacks killed 202 people — including 88 Australians and seven Americans — four major terror strikes were targeted at Westerners in Indonesia, causing 45 deaths. The last was in 2009, when attacks on the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta killed seven people.
That compares to 15 attacks against security forces, local authorities, Christians and some moderate Muslims in just the past two years. Those attacks have killed a total of 11 people — all police officers — and wounded dozens of civilians.
Although the targets may have shifted, the recruitment methods are the same. Young men are indoctrinated to believe that as jihadist "grooms" they will reap God's rewards for martyrdom — paradise for the bomber and 70 family members and the gift of 72 virgin angels. It's a belief shunned by most Muslims.
Fadlan, a convicted militant who goes by a single alias name, was trained to be a suicide bomber in 2001 by Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida-linked group that sent two other bombers to the Bali nightclubs on a busy Saturday night. He told AP that his mentor, Imam Samudra, one of the plot masterminds, deemed it too risky to use him in the attacks because he was already wanted for an earlier botched bombing.
Today, Fadlan believes he would be in paradise if he had been picked.
"I still believe it ... because it's not promised by my recruiter, but God," Fadlan said softly in a mosque near his house in central Jakarta.
Fadlan was jailed for four years in 2006 after being found guilty of harboring terrorists, including Noordin M. Top, who was Southeast Asia's most wanted militant before police killed him in 2009. Fadlan was released on good behavior that same year and is now part of the government's deradicalization program, designed to reform convicted extremists.
He told AP he also was involved in two 2001 bombings at churches in eastern Jakarta that injured more than 70 worshippers. He was never convicted in those attacks due to a lack of evidence.
Now 36, Fadlan says he's not actively involved with any militant groups in Indonesia and no longer interested in becoming a groom there because the country is not seen as a battle ground for holy war. But he smiles broadly when asked if he would still be willing to serve as a suicide bomber on another front if called.
"Nobody refuses a reward in heaven, right?" he says. "But I live like I'm in a large aquarium now ... authorities are watching me everywhere I go, and I could not go abroad."