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Barton discusses Jakarta bombing's ramificati -

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Barton discusses Jakarta bombing's ramifications

Broadcast: 20/07/2009

Reporter: Tony Jones

Professor Greg Barton, a former Indonesian presidential advisor now at Monash University, joins
Lateline to discuss the political ramifications of the Jakarta bombings.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Here is the unfolding story of last week's Jakarta bombings. And joining us
in the studio is Greg Barton, Professor of Politics at Monash University and a former Indonesian
presidential advisor.

Thanks for being here, Greg.


TONY JONES: Now, if the Indonesians are right and the man who coordinated this latest Marriott
Hotel suicide attack from room 1808 is a protégΘ or star pupil of Dr Azahari, what does that tell

GREG BARTON: Well, the key thing here is actually Noordin Top. I mean, Azahari and Noordin Top were
a team is the key thing. Azahari and Noordin Top were a team and indeed we've got a guy who was not
just previously working with Noordin Top, but probably acting on sort of remote control directions
from him on Friday. That tells us it's a tight group. And in a way, that would be good news, if
it's confirmed. Because, if there's some other group out there we don't know about, that's much
more scary.

TONY JONES: But doesn't the attack indicate, and the sophistication of it and the level of
planning, indicate that the Top's organisation, including this new fellow that we have hardly even
talked about before, is much more dangerous than people had anticipated?

GREG BARTON: It does, and it means that Top is in fact much more central. At least it reminds us of
the fact that Top's more central than we'd previously liked to think. He was back there in the
Christmas Eve bombings of 2000; he was there very much with Azahari in the 2002 Bali bombing; he
played a key role in the first Marriott bombing, 2003, and he was particularly in charge of the
embassy bombing in 2004, and again, the pedestrian bombings in 2005 back in Bali. So, he's been
there all the way through. And he probably broke company with JI proper after the Marriott bombing.

TONY JONES: Is that a fact? I mean, do we know for sure that he broke company with them and what's
the evidence of that? Because it's so unclear whether there's a chain of command - whether there's
a sort of godfather at the top of JI and whether they issue orders and how that works.

GREG BARTON: Well, every time there's a new arrest we find out things we didn't know we didn't
know. So, we can't say anything with certainty. But we do know that when the embassy bombing
occurred in 2004 that that seemed to be completely outside of JI's interest and it was clearly Top.
It may well be that the Marriott bombing of 2003 also was just Top's push and not really coming
from the centre of JI. Top has always had a rather ambivalent relationship with Abulla Sunkar
(phonetic spelling) and Abu Bakar Bashir, and stood outside the organisation proper. And, look, it
may well be that this is just a facade and in fact they're all tight, but I don't think so. I think
that JI as a main body has long been moving in a different direction and Top and perhaps who knows
how many other people, perhaps quite a sizeable splinter, have been going in this sort of
get-on-with-it-and-do-jihad-now direction.

TONY JONES: Does that make them a little like the real IRA, for example, the group that continues
the fight no matter what happens?

GREG BARTON: Well it does in some ways, or the sort of the real ETA, if you like, or, you know,
there's always these grumpy old men left to the bitter end. If that's all they are, then as they
begin to run out of capacity, their threat level diminishes. The big issue here is Top recruiting
new people. And what happened in Lampung and what may have happened on this occasion is Top and his
guys seem to have remarkable capacity, not just to put things together and to stay on the run, but
at the same time actually recruit people and regenerate. That's quite scary.

TONY JONES: And both Azahari and Top seem to have decided it's very important to pass on these
bomb-making skills to the next generation, and that appears to be where this character 'Reno' or
'Tedi' or 'Aji' - whichever name he goes by - comes into the equation.

GREG BARTON: Certainly, and those are key skills, because it's almost certain the devices in these
attacks on Friday weren't assembled outside the hotels - they were almost certainly assembled
inside the hotel, probably in room 1808. It's much easier to bring in the various components,
particularly the chemicals, somewhat discreetly than it is to bring in an entire bomb. You need
somebody with those skills to do it. So if it is indeed Aji-Reno, linked with Top, then that all
makes sense.

TONY JONES: The thing is we know less about this man than we know about Top or Azahari. I mean, he
goes under a variety of names; we don't even know which country he comes from. And we know that
Azahari came from Malaysia; Top I think came from Malaysia.

GREG BARTON: Came from Malaysia as well.

TONY JONES: We don't know anything about this man; we don't know his real name, we don't know
anything about him, except that he's now on the most wanted list and everyone's looking for him.

GREG BARTON: Well exactly, and every time there's a major arrest, we find that there's something
truly surprising we didn't realise. We found this with arrests in 2007 when we found the person who
in fact was acting as the head of the Amir of JI, somebody we hadn't even realised existed. So we
should be a little bit cautious in our hubris and not assume that we know how these thing work.
There's perhaps a lot more going on than what we recognise even now.

TONY JONES: Let's stick with this character 'Reno'-'Tedi'-'Aji'. I mean, the International Crisis
Group put together a very interesting report about the Palembang group - Geoff Thompson was talking
about this earlier - based in south Sumatra. Now, he appears to have been sent in - if he is the
same man that the crisis group thinks he is, if he's 'Agi' as well as the other names - he appears
to have been sent in to teach that group how to make bombs. And of course they came close to
arguably what would have been the worst attack since the original Bali bombings.

GREG BARTON: Indeed, and there've been repeated attempts in different places for attacks like that,
and up until Friday, they were thwarted. But if he is indeed the same guy, he not only brought in
bomb-making technology and passed that on, he also brought in a level of charisma to recruit and to
take people who were radical but not yet ready to become violent extremists and tip them over the
edge. I mean, they didn't go through with their attacks, but they were ready to do so. So that's an
important component as well.

TONY JONES: Well, yes, this is seen now as a - the Palembang group is seen as a key case study,
because quite a lot is know about them because they were all in the end arrested. So, the breaking
town of how this all happened is very important in our understanding of how these groups work. Tell
us a little bit more about this group - how they came about, how they started off as a religious
study group and ended up as basically trained killers.

GREG BARTON: Well they appear as a classic case of people who have extreme ideas but don't quite
know where to go with them. And their initial concerns, evidently, were concerns about
Christianisation, as they perceived it; they thought it to be a major threat. And they in fact
murdered several pastors. I mean, they clearly had got to a level of ...

TONY JONES: They were worried about Christian priests converting Muslims, is that it?

GREG BARTON: This has long been a sort of a major concern of radical Islamists in Indonesia going
back to the 1970s. Based more in perception perhaps than reality - the demographics don't support
this fear. But it's one of those justifying fears that drives groups forward and holds them
together. So, this was a group focused on very local concerns. They weren't thinking about an Al
Qaeda sort of global struggle - they weren't thinking, as we say, of a far enemy, choosing foreign
targets. They were thinking of local Indonesian pastors and churches and things that troubled them.

TONY JONES: So how do they go from there to the idea of targeting what I believe what they thought
were mainly Americans, backpackers? And in fact many of them would of been Australians and English
and other Westerners. But that part of Sumatra is hugely frequented by backpackers. It would have
been a terrible blow to the Indonesian tourist industry, as well as struck horror through the
entire sort of, you know, young travelling community.

GREG BARTON: It would have indeed. What's going on there is something more than just, as I said,
bomb-making technology - it's the ability to get inside people's heads and say, "Look, here's the
real story, here's the narrative, here's what's going on. Your concerns are part of a bigger
struggle, and if you want to go all the way and do what we have to do in the service of God, you're
going to have to start targeting these people as well." So, it's shifting from the local - the
so-called near enemy - to the far enemy: the foreign presence. And it appears that groups don't
easily make that transition themselves; you need somebody fairly charismatic and persuasive to come
in and convince them of this new narrative, this larger story. So, if indeed 'Aji-Reno' is
Noordin's guy, not only is he a clever technician, but he's a clever, charismatic leader.

TONY JONES: And, it is interesting, these characters seem to - the bomb makers, they're very
valuable to the organisation. So they slip in, they train the sort of the pawns, the troops on the
ground, in how to use this equipment - they use the suicide bombers and they slip out. They never
seem to die in these attacks, unless, as with Azahari, they're tracked down in a hideout and
actually killed.

GREG BARTON: Indeed, I made the point earlier that I think there's been a major split between JI
proper and Noordin's group and perhaps other splinter groups. But I don't believe that split
extends to the abolition of personal ties. I think there are people who perhaps don't directly
support bombing, but are willing to shelter Noordin and his guys. How else can you explain how this
guy could be on the run for so long? And I think this is a weakness in the Indonesian
counter-terrorism approach at this stage. The police are really quite brilliant; much better than
we expected them to be. But they're not so good at getting community trust and getting communities
to speak up, particularly when those communities sympathise with JI and sympathise even with Top.

TONY JONES: So what role do the Pasantram, these Islamic boarding schools, play in all of this?
Because it seems clear that even if the teachers openly in the schools are not saying, "Go out and
kill people," they're certainly providing a kind of religious rationale, and they're also - the
schools provide a meeting place, it seems - a haven for these people to actually begin creating
terror cells.

GREG BARTON: Yeah, it's that social connection which is vital. I mean, the basic teaching of the
schools is conservative and sort of sets the screen, but it doesn't make people terrorists - most
of the students don't become terrorists. A smaller number are brought into an inner circle and
they're given extra-curriculur instructions - this is a pattern across the world. And that
instruction certainly is dangerous. But it's the social networks which are key. It's the tying
people together, often with alliances formed through marriage and family connections. Very strong
ties - ties that persist through long prison sentences and last through the decades. The example of
Darul Islam from the 1950s is a guide to go by. And that's the key role of these Pesantren. And
Indonesia has perhaps 25,000 Pesantren, and we're talking here about a few hundred at most that are
sympathetic and a few dozen that are truly dangerous, so it's ...

TONY JONES: And you could break it down to even smaller groups when you think of Abu Bakar Bashir's
Pesantren, which is called 'Enrookie', and it seems that one of the suicide bombers from last
Friday's attack now appears to have been a graduate from that school and as well as the bomber back
in 2003 at the same hotel. Is that school churning out terrorists, to put it bluntly?

GREG BARTON: Well, that's perhaps making it too simple, but it's certainly in the thick of things.
It's the social know through which so many of these connections run. Back in August of 2002, Sydney
Jones and her team at ICG wrote a very prescient report on how the Nurookie network works. And ever
since then, of course - we had the Bali bombing immediately afterwards, and that made things
clearer with the arrests that followed. But every event since then seem to run through Gnukry. It's
not to say that Gnukry controls everything or that it's a terrorist factory, but the social
networks appear very vital. And of you have people like Abu Bakar Bashir very above ground and
public and very bold in his sort of propaganda line, operating freely. It's a complex dilemma. It'd
very hard in social policy terms to know what to do. You can't arrest somebody for tough talking,
but it clearly has an influence.

TONY JONES: What can - I mean, should the Indonesians be doing, appear more? I mean, should the
counter-terrorism strategy actually focus on these places as breeding grounds for terrorism?

GREG BARTON: Well, it's not that the Indonesians are not aware, but they're sort of, you know,
between the devil and the deep blue sea. On the one hand, if they come down very hard, it
reinforces the narrative of the terrorists to say, "Look, it's a war on Islam and you're against us
and it's unfair and it's Western pressure driving this whole thing." So, they've taken the view
that they'll back off a little bit, not move unless there's criminal activity, but monitor these
networks closely. But, unfortunately, one of these schools was a school in Chilachap, where Noordin
Top's - one of his father-in-law's, it's, I think, his third marriage - resides and teaches. And
they were monitoring that school. They moved in and made a raid. They found explosive materials
rather like those used in the Marriott bombing which suggests a link with Top. But that level of
surveillance doesn't guarantee that you know everything. You know, even when you're really paying
attention, stuff can happen without you realising. I think it's because of the very thick social
connections and the fact that the police find it very hard to penetrate the broader communities
that are broadly sympathetic - not terrorists' communities, but people that will look after these
guys and not give them up. And the answer there is what's often referred to as community policing.
But it's hard to do in a stable democracy in a developed nation. It's going to be a really tough
haul for the Indonesian police to get the community policing thing working.

TONY JONES: The fear will be that last Friday's very sophisticated attack is the sign that a new
campaign is starting; and the other fear along with that is that more Indonesians radicalised and
trained in military tactics and bomb-making in places like Peshawar and Pakistan and Afghanistan,
as we've seen from the past, will come back to swell the ranks of the real extremists in Indonesia.
How big a fear is that?

GREG BARTON: I think that's a very real fear. We don't know the tone, we don't know the numbers,
one might have thought and rather hoped that we wouldn't see bombings like last Friday's for some
years yet. Now last Friday's bombing may be the sort of last push of Top's group, that maybe all
they can do, because the police were closing in, or it may be the beginning of a new wave of
attacks. Key here will be who they arrest and the connections of those people arrested. If we find
there are people who have recently returned from South Asia, from Peshawar, or elsewhere, then we
really have worries, because that's where the next cycle of this violence could begin - with not
these guys who trained in the late '80s or the early '90s, but guys who trained this decade and are
part of the current conflict - whether it's in Pakistan or in Afghanistan - and that really does
this problem in South East Asia to our concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

TONY JONES: As we've been hearing from our politicians. We thank you very much. Once again, Greg
Barton, it's good to see you and we thanks - thanks for joining us.

GREG BARTON: Thank you.