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article imageIndonesian cleric sentenced to death over 2016 IS-claimed terror attack

By Kiki Siregar (AFP)     Jun 22, 2018 in Crime

A radical Indonesian cleric was sentenced to death Friday for masterminding a 2016 Islamic State terror attack that saw a suicide bomber blow himself up at a Starbucks cafe.

Aman Abdurrahman was found guilty of ordering the attack that killed four in Jakarta, as heavily armed police guarded his sentencing at at court in the capital.

It was the first attack claimed by the international terror network in Southeast Asia.

"(The defendant) has been proven to have committed a criminal act of terrorism," said judge Akhmad Jaini, who also cited Abdurrahman's involvement in other deadly plots.

"He will be sentenced to death."

Abdurrahman -- who was already in jail on a separate terror conviction -- gestured to his legal team and briefly kissed the floor, as machine gun-toting guards stood nearby.

His lawyer, Asludin Hatjani, said the ruling was "unfair", citing a lack of evidence connecting Abdurrahman to the attack, which he was accused of organising from inside prison.

Executions are carried out by firing squad in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, which has long struggled with Islamist militancy.

In 2002, bombings at the resort island of Bali killed over 200 -- mostly foreign tourists -- in Indonesia's worst-ever terror attack.

Three militants involved in the Bali bombing have since been executed.

The assault in the capital two years ago saw security forces battle radicals near the cafe where a suicide bomber detonated his explosives.

- Spiritual leader -

Considered the de facto head of IS supporters in Indonesia, Abdurrahman, 46, is also the spiritual leader of local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).

JAD was involved in the 2016 Jakarta attack and a wave of suicide bombings last month in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya, according to authorities.

Two families -- including girls aged nine and 12 -- blew themselves up at churches and a police station, killing 13.

Abdurrahman has not been charged in the Surabaya attacks.

His death sentence will be welcomed by some JAD members, analysts said.

"It's seen as heroic -- he'll become a martyr," said Al Chaidar, a terrorism expert at Indonesia's Malikul Saleh University.

From prison, Abdurrahman has recruited militants to join IS, is thought to have been in communication with leaders of the jihadist group, and is the main translator for IS propaganda in Indonesia, according to analysts and authorities.

Although considered Indonesia's largest pro-IS coalition, JAD's structure and links to the network are murky.

The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict has said JAD is "a generic term" for any IS supporter and functions more as an umbrella organisation than a coherent group.

Formed in 2015, JAD is thought to be composed of some two dozen Indonesian groups that have pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to the US State Department, which last year designated it as an extremist network.

Apart from the 2016 Jakarta attacks, JAD carried out suicide attacks the following year which killed three policemen and injured a dozen others at a busy bus station in Jakarta.

It has also been linked to a series of other plots including the firebombing of a church that killed a toddler.

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