Singaporean terrorist condemns Taliban in video from Indonesian jail

SINGAPORE – A Singaporean terrorist serving an 18-year jail term in Indonesia has released a video denouncing the Taliban, but a security expert warns that this is likely a bid to convince the Indonesian government that he no longer poses a threat.

In a 20-minute video filmed at the prison island of Nusakambangan in Central Java earlier this month, Mohammad Hassan Saynudin, better known as Fajar Taslim, slammed the Taliban as “fanatics” and called the group’s its takeover of Afghanistan “un-Islamic”.

Sporting a white Muslim skullcap and a tidy beard, Hassan said in Indonesian: “Disaster will befall them because they did it in a haram manner, the way that is forbidden in Islam. In the end, they will all perish.”

His remarks were relayed to The Straits Times by Mr Muh Taufiqurrohman, a senior researcher at the Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies (PAKAR) – a Jakarta-based think-tank – who has seen the video.

Hassan, 49, a former member of the Singapore chapter of Southeast Asian extremist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), and his notorious ally, Singaporean terror leader Mas Selamat Kastari, had plotted to crash a plane into Changi Airport in 2001.

Hassan fled Singapore in 2001 to evade a security dragnet and travelled to Afghanistan to undergo military training. There he claimed to have met Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Recalling his life under Taliban rule, Hassan said in the video that the Islamic rituals practised in Afghanistan and Indonesia were different, and the government was unable to provide economically for its people, adding: “You go there and realise there’s nothing to eat because the Taliban government can’t provide food (for the people).”

The Taliban’s return to rule in Afghanistan following the pull-out of US forces has stirred discussions in predominantly Muslim Indonesia about whether it would embolden violent extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda affiliate JI.

Scores of Indonesian militants had trained with Afghan mujahideen fighters from the 1980s onward, with some returning home to mount attacks including the 2002 bombings in Bali which killed 202 people.

Hassan urged Indonesian Muslims not to go to Afghanistan to join the Islamist militant movement, saying: “You will be disappointed and you will suffer.

“If you return to Indonesia, you will be arrested. Oh my God, your life is ruined,” he added.

After around a year in Afghanistan, Hassan headed to Indonesia where he set up a terror group to launch attacks against Westerners. He was arrested by the Indonesian police in 2008 and sentenced to 18 years in prison in April 2009 for killing a Christian school teacher and his role in terror plots.

In the video, he expressed regret for “rebelling” against the government that led him to prison and blamed “clerics who pretended to be smart but instead led me astray”.

“I was misguided,” he said. “I was not the only one who suffered – my wife, children, mother, and the people around me also suffered.”

He praised the Indonesian government for looking after the welfare of Muslims in the country.

This photo taken in 2009 shows Fajar Taslim speaking to reporters at his jail cell in a South Jakarta district court lock-up. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

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Hassan had made similar claims condemning extremism previously. He was filmed in Dec 2018 delivering a speech to fellow inmates renouncing the ideology of the Islamic State terror outfit and promising not to repeat any act of violence.

Mr Taufiqurrohman, however, raised doubts over whether Hassan has truly reformed, saying he still maintains a close relationship with active JI members who support the Taliban as well as pro-Islamic State extremists in Indonesia.

Hassan is due to complete his jail term in Nov 25 next year but could be released several months earlier under Indonesia’s prisoner remission programme.

He had previously said he wanted to apply for Indonesian citizenship and intended to stay on in Indonesia after his release.

Mr Taufiqurrohman said: “He is probably just giving an impression that he has disengaged from extremism to convince the Indonesian government that he is no longer a threat to Indonesia and that he should be allowed to stay in Indonesia following his release.”

He added: “He hopes that the statements will encourage the Indonesian government not to extradite him to Singapore upon his release.”

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