JAKARTA (NYTIMES) – A court in Indonesia has sentenced a militant to life in prison after finding him guilty of making bombs for a 2005 market bombing that killed 22 people.
The militant, Upik Lawanga, is a member of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) , a South-east Asian terrorist group with links to Al-Qaeda.
Lawanga, whose real name is Taufiq Bulaga, was arrested last year after evading the authorities for more than a decade.
JI carried out deadly attacks in Indonesia in the 2000s, including the 2002 bombing at a nightclub on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, many of them Australian tourists.
Lawanga, who is in his 40s, was found guilty on Wednesday (Dec 8) for his roles in three bombings on the island of Sulawesi, according to a report by BenarNews, a news agency affiliated with the United States government-funded news service Radio Free Asia.
The largest of the three Sulawesi bombings was a May 2005 attack at a market in Tentena that killed 22 people and wounded dozens of others. The other attacks, in 2004 and 2006, killed a total of seven people.
After leaving Sulawesi, Lawanga lived for years in hiding as a duck farmer on the island of Sumatra, where he was eventually arrested, The Associated Press reported. His trial was held remotely this autumn by the East Jakarta District Court.
The indictment in the case did not mention the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing or another attack on the same island three years later that killed 20 people, according to BenarNews.
Lawanga argued in court that he had helped make the bombs but did not carry out attacks, and that he had only been obeying orders from superiors. He said after the verdict that he would appeal.
JI is an extremist group that has bombed churches, hotels and other targets in Indonesia. The administration of former president George W. Bush formally declared it a “foreign terrorist organisation” in October 2002, a few weeks after the Bali nightclub bombing. That same month, it arrested Abu Bakar Bashir, the group’s leader at the time.
US officials said around that time that an Al-Qaeda operative, Omar al Faruq, had told CIA interrogators that Bashir provided money, explosives and men for several terrorist plots, including a plan to blow up US embassies in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in December 2001.
In January 2021, Bashir was released from prison after serving more than two-thirds of a 15-year sentence for helping establish a terrorist training camp.
Bashir, now 83, was freed a few weeks after the country’s anti-terrorism police arrested 23 other members of his group.
One of them was Aris Sumarsono, better known as Zulkarnaen, a leader who had been wanted for 18 years in connection with the Bali nightclub bombing.
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