ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Indonesia prisons are havens for radicals
The campaign has assumed global importance because of feared links between Southeast Asian terrorist groups and Al Qaeda. That possibility was underlined by the January arrest of Bali bombing suspect Umar Patek in Abbottabad, the same Pakistani town where Osama bin Laden was killed in May.
Porong prison is a huddle of low concrete buildings set on 40 acres (15 hectares) near Surabaya, the country’s second-biggest city. It is home to 27 terrorists — some of the 150 currently held in prisons across the sprawling Indonesian archipelago.
Block F is technically reserved for terrorists but also accommodates about 50 others because of overcrowding. The prison, designed to hold 1,000 inmates, has 1,327.
An elaborate green garden flourishes in the thick heat. Bearded terrorists tend ducks, and fish splash in small ponds. Some militants play sports with other inmates, while others read the Koran or teach Islam to ordinary prisoners.
“We only explain what they should know about jihad,” said Syamsuddin, who is serving a life sentence for his role in a gun attack on a karaoke club in Ambon that killed two Christians in 2005. “It’s up to them whether to accept it or not.”
Syamsuddin was trained in bomb-making by alleged Al Qaeda terrorist Omar al-Farouq during Muslim-Christian conflict in Ambon between 1999 and 2002.
Muhammad Syarif Tarabubun, a former police officer, was sentenced to 15 years for his role in the same attack. He laughed easily and smiled broadly as he explained his extremist views. He said he plans to join a jihad in Afghanistan, Iraq or Lebanon after his likely early release in 2013 for good behavior.
“The death of Osama bin Laden will not ruin our spirit for jihad,” he said. “We do it not for a figure. We do it for God’s blessing.”
Radicalization is common in Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s overcrowded prisons, where thousands of terrorists and insurgents mix freely with others, according to a 15-country study by the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence.
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