Paul Toohey, Solo, Central Java | July 22
THIRTY young, glassy-eyed men, all grimly focused, jog at pace two abreast, military-style, through the narrow streets of Solo in central Java.
Whether they are a new crop of Muslim terrorists is impossible to say, but the al-Mukmin school they attend has produced a long list of some of the most sinister names known to Australia and Southeast Asia.
Out of this school came the 2002 Bali bombers Mukhlas, Amrozi and Samudra, and the 2005 Bali suicide bombers. Also from there was bomb-maker Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, who wreaked terror in Indonesia, Singapore and The Philippines, and Mubarok, who drove a truck into the Australian embassy in Jakarta in 2004.
Nur Said, aka Nur Hasbi, also studied here. It is widely believed he was one of two bombers in Friday's attack on Jakarta's J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels.
If it was Nur Said, he -- like the rest of the alumni -- was taught the fundamentals of jihad terror at this school by its co-founder and the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, Abu Bakar Bashir, in the mid-1990s. In this, Bashir was ably assisted by Southeast Asia's most wanted man, Noordin Top, who recruited terrorists from this backstreet Islamic boarding school. Top is believed to have given Friday's bombers their final instructions. It is remarkable this school survives, given that its history is so written in blood. Guards at the school, in the suburb of Ngruki, were reluctant to let The Australian inside its gates. We were able to observe the show of force they gave as they ran through the streets in the midday heat, chanting "Allahu Akbar" -- God is great -- in an intimidating statement of force.
The graphic on the students' shirts depicts a rifle with a bayonet and a yellow flag. It may not be coincidence that in Indonesia, a yellow flag is used to indicate that someone has passed away.
The word sapala on the T-shirts is an acronym that roughly translates as "Islamic School Nature Lovers", and the word kamufisa refers to a mujaheddin cadre.
Indonesian police arrived at the school on Monday to investigate Nur Said's associations and the school. After initial denials he had been a student there, the school's deputy director, Ustadz Wahyudin, yesterday reportedly confirmed he had been in Bashir's classes of '94 and '95.
Bashir lives at the school but was yesterday on a preaching tour in east Java.
Alexander Downer, who as foreign minister confronted a series of terror events, told The Australian: "What can you do with someone who has Abu Bakar Bashir as their earthly hero and would like to get the hell out of this world and into paradise?
"People still don't understand how these people schooled in the madrassas see great virtue in martyrdom. The worst that can happen to them is that they feel a bit of pain, or none at all. They're excited about blasting themselves into paradise. It's very hard to counter that."
Mr Downer said Australian aid programs aimed at modernising the schools and teaching moderation were 10-15 years away from showing a beneficial effect.
Source: The Australian