Regional JI leader now helps police catch former comrades
A REGIONAL leader of Jemaah Islamiah has rolled over and is helping police track and interrogate some of the terrorists he once trained.
Nasir bin Abbas is not a sworn police officer, but he might as well be. The former top JI leader, weapons trainer and Afghanistan veteran of six years is now a full-time consultant to Indonesia's crack anti-terror squad, Detachment 88.
In an exclusive interview, the softly spoken former terrorist revealed he had helped authorities arrest 12 JI suspects in the past year.
Malaysian-born Mr Abbas was arrested during a round-up of JI suspects in 2003 and spent 10 months in a Jakarta jail on immigration offences.
It is not clear how he came to roll over, but he reappeared in public as a consultant to authorities with duties including talking to arrested JI members, encouraging them to open up to interrogators and re-educating them about the error of their ways.
On the night of October 1 last year, when suicide bombers walked into three Bali restaurants and blew themselves up, Mr Abbas was on a plane to Bali with Detachment 88 chiefs.
"My duty is to re-educate the JI members who get arrested and to open their minds, to get them talking (to police), to give them Islamic advice. I know what's inside their mind," Mr Abbas said.
"Most of them are mistaken about jihad, about fighting, about who is their real enemy. I explain to them the true understanding about jihad. Most of them realise they are wrong. Then they open their mind and talk to the police," he said.
The 37-year-old is not afraid that he could be killed in his new role.
"I am worried but not afraid. As a human, of course, I do have a worry, but I am not afraid," he said.
Mr Abbas's sister is married to 2002 Bali bombing ringleader Mukhlas who is on death row for his role in the nightclub attacks.
Mr Abbas was in charge of JI's Mantiqi 3 division, which terrorised parts of the southern Philippines, the Indonesian provinces of Sulawesi and Kalimantan and Malaysian Sabah.
He said he was sworn into the role in late 2001 by JI's spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir and ran terrorist training camps in the southern Philippines. He is also an Afghanistan veteran, having spent six years fighting there.
This week, in an interview in Jakarta with Sydney's The Daily Telegraph, Mr Abbas revealed how he changed from terrorist to terrorist hunter and what was inside the mind of someone prepared to die for a cause.
His new role was not clearly defined, but he said it was similar to a consultant. Police accompany him most of the time, including at the interview.
He said jihad meant to strive for perfection and he debunked the idea that killing innocent people could be condoned by Islam, which only allowed killing in the face of war or attack.
Much of the best intelligence on JI and its campaign in Indonesia was gleaned after the second Bali bombing and the shooting of JI master bombmaker Azahari Husin during a raid on his East Java safehouse.
Police found a wealth of information there, including documents and computer programs about JI and its plans.
Mr Abbas has seen the information, including plans for the second Bali bombing, to help police analyse it and hunt senior JI figures still on the run.
He has been joined by another self-confessed JI member who was released from jail recently.
Mr Abbas earned the ire of fellow Muslims when he testified against Bashir in a chaotic session where he was ushered out of court by security amid shouts of liar.
Mr Abas's speciality is weapons. He says he knows how to make a bomb and could do it easily if asked.
He said JI's suicide bombers were motivated by the belief they were martyrs and will ascend to paradise.
"This is a deviant teaching of Islam. They truly believe what they have done is in the name of Jihad and they will be a martyr," Mr Abbas said.
When new JI suspects are arrested he is brought in to turn them around. He tells them their ideology is wrong and only God decides who becomes a martyr.
Mr Abbas said JI members were motivated by Osama bin Laden's calls for Muslims to fulfil their obligation to kill non-Muslims.
He said that when he was arrested he wanted police to shoot him dead; fulfilling the doctrine that it is better to die than be arrested. But he later decided it was God's will for him to stay alive and help change the views of his fellow militants.
Posted by: Dan Darling 2006-03-05