Radical cleric behind Bali bombing to be freed from prison

The firebrand preacher Abu Bakar Bashir was sentenced to 15 years in jail for helping fund a paramilitary group training in the conservative Islamic province of Aceh. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2019
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Radical cleric behind Bali bombing to be freed from prison

  • Abu Bakar Bashir is believed to have been a key figure in terror network Jemaah Islamiyah
  • ‘He is old ... and his health condition was also part of the consideration’

JAKARTA: A radical cleric thought to be the spiritual leader of the Bali bombers will be released from prison on medical grounds, Indonesia’s president said Friday.
Abu Bakar Bashir, 80, is believed to have been a key figure in terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which was blamed for the 2002 bombings on the holiday island which killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists.
It was Indonesia’s deadliest militant attack and prompted Jakarta to beef up anti-terror cooperation with the US and Australia, which has previously opposed clemency for Bashir.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Friday that he had agreed to order the ailing preacher’s release from a prison on the outskirts of the capital.
“The first reason is humanitarian,” Widodo told reporters.
“He is old ... and his health condition was also part of the consideration.”
Widodo did not say when Bashir would be released, but one of the cleric’s lawyers said it could be as early as next week.
Bashir, speaking from Gunung Sindur prison, welcomed the news.
“If I am released, I’ll praise Allah,” he told reporters, adding he was not hostile to the state.
In 2011, the firebrand preacher — once synonymous with militant Islam in Indonesia — was sentenced to 15 years in jail for helping fund a paramilitary group training in the conservative Islamic province of Aceh.
Bashir, the co-founder of an infamous Islamic boarding school known for producing militants, was jailed after authorities in the world’s biggest Muslim majority country broke up the camp.
Several militants convicted over their involvement in the Bali bombings have been executed while two others, including Malaysian Noordin Mohammed Top, were killed in police raids in 2009 and 2010.
Bashir, who has repeatedly denied involvement in terror attacks, was also previously jailed over the Bali bombings but that conviction was quashed on appeal.
Al-Qaeda-linked JI was founded by a handful of exiled Indonesian militants in Malaysia in the 1980s, and grew to include cells across Southeast Asia.
As well as the 2002 Bali bombings, the radical group was blamed for a deadly 2003 car bomb at the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta and a suicide car bomb the following year outside the Australian embassy.
An anti-terror crackdown weakened some of Indonesia’s most dangerous networks, including Jemaah Islamiyah.
The Daesh group proved to be a potent rallying cry for Indonesia’s radicals, with hundreds traveling to the Middle East to join the militants.
Last year, a wave of deadly suicide bombings at churches and a police post rocked Indonesia’s second biggest city Surabaya.
Those attacks were carried out by families — including children — linked to local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, which has pledged allegiance to Daesh.


Taliban close Afghan health facilities run by Swedish group

Updated 2 min 26 sec ago
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Taliban close Afghan health facilities run by Swedish group

  • Taliban raided one of the NGO’s clinics last week in which 4 people died
  • The NGO said closing the clinics will affect 6,000 patients

KABUL: A Swedish non-governmental organization in Afghanistan says the Taliban have forced the closure of 42 health facilities run by the non-profit group in eastern Maidan Wardan province.
Parwiz Ahmad Faizi, communications manager at the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, said on Wednesday the facilities were closed after Afghan forces raided a clinic run by the NGO in Daimirdad district last week. Troops were looking for suspected Taliban fighters.
The committee says two staff members, a guard and a lab worker, and two other people were killed in the attack. A fifth person is missing.
Insurgents contacted the staff and ordered the NGO to shut down. Faizi says the closures will affect health services for around 6,000 patients, particularly women and children.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the closure of the facilities.