The Bali Bombers: What Motivates Death Worship?

by | Oct 19, 2003 | POLITICS

On the anniversary of the Bali bombing, survivors and mourners are still asking: Why? The bombers Amrozi, Mukhlas and Samudra have been sentenced to death, but they show no remorse or regret. What motivates their death worship? At 11.07 pm, October 12 th 2002, 5 kg of TNT exploded inside the jacket of a patron […]

On the anniversary of the Bali bombing, survivors and mourners are still asking: Why? The bombers Amrozi, Mukhlas and Samudra have been sentenced to death, but they show no remorse or regret. What motivates their death worship?

At 11.07 pm, October 12 th 2002, 5 kg of TNT exploded inside the jacket of a patron of Paddy’s bar. Across the street 12 filing cabinets packed with potassium chlorate, sulphuric acid and aluminium powder exploded inside a Mitsubishi Van. The blast destroyed the Sari nightclub, which was packed with Western tourists. 202 people from 20 countries were killed, including 88 Australians and 5 Americans. It was the worst terrorist attack since September 11.

The bar and nightclub were popular spots on the tourist strip at Kuta, a beach-resort town on the island of Bali. Before the bombing Bali was a favourite destination for Australian families, sports teams, honeymooners and singles seeking a cheap holiday in a tropical paradise – or their first overseas adventure.

Bali is a province of Indonesia which is the largest Muslim country in the world (population over 200 million); but most Balinese are Hindus. The basis of the island’s economy used to be tourism, which offered the locals a chance to earn incomes well above the national average. In exchange, they offered Western tourists a friendly haven.

In the evenings they would join their visitors on the beach to enjoy the cooling sea breeze, while the children paddled, the young bucks surfed, the girls flirted, and the hawkers competed for the last coins left in the tourists’ pockets. Now the pickings are meagre and Bali’s economy is in ruins.

The Bali police investigation, led by Major General I Made Mangku Pastika, was surprisingly swift and effective. In corrupt and dysfunctional Indonesia, Pastika has emerged as a beacon of trustworthy functionality. He has been compared to both Rudolph Giuliani, and, ominously, to Giovanni Falcone, the anti-Mafia Italian prosecutor killed by a car bomb.

Pastika runs his investigation with his pick of the best police from across Indonesia, in consultation with counterparts from Australia, Britain, Germany and the US. “The only thing we have based this investigation on is facts” he told Eric Ellis of The Bulletin, “simple facts, and we test these things through scientific crime investigation. There is no other influence.” In Indonesia, where they say the law provides “the best justice money can buy”, this boast is not inane.

Painstaking inspection of the bombsite unearthed a fragment of the car bomb’s chassis, which revealed an altered serial number, which led to the owner, Amrozi (His full name is Amrozi bin Haji Nurhasyim but only his first name is ever used). Amrozi’s arrest within a month of the bombing, led step by step to the arrest of over a hundred terrorists and accomplices.

The investigation has also “tenuously” linked the bombing to Amrozi’s former teacher, the Islamist cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, steward of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an organization dedicated to the establishment of a pan-Asian super-state that would absorb: Indonesia, East Timor, southern Thailand, The Philippines, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia for a start. In this theocracy hundreds of millions would live in village societies under strict Muslim rule. In his interview with Ellis, (as reported in The Bulletin, 20th November) Pastika refused to declare a direct causal link between the Bali bombing and Abu Bakar Bashir “without solid evidence”. But JI, and its supporters from the Hadrami community are under intensive investigation. Abu Bakar Bashir is of Hadrami descent, as is Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaeda movement maintains close links with JI. The Hadrami, known as the “Indonesian Arabs”, came from the oil-rich Hadramout region of south-eastern Yemen. Their Asian diaspora, which dates from the 15th century, spreads across Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. It numbers about five million and includes many of the richest and most influential Muslims in Asia, some of whom claim direct descent from Mohammed. Early in 2002 a high level meeting of JI took place in a village in southern Thailand, to plan terrorist strategies. It was at the behest of Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali. Abu Bakar Bashir and al-Qaeda operatives probably attended. The “hard-target” strategy, which had been in favour after September 11, had fallen out of favour due to a Singapore bombing plot being foiled. A trail which started with a video of Singapore targets being unearthed in Afghanistan, led to the interception of a plot to bomb five Western embassies, government buildings, and Singapore locales where sailors from the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet congregated. Thirteen terrorists were apprehended, and many more arrests followed.

Reeling from this setback the terrorists who attended the Thailand meeting were looking for “soft-targets”. It was probably Amrozi’s older brother Ali Ghufron (better known by his nom-de-guerre, Mukhlas), who proposed the operation “to rid Bali of Western tourists, whose filthy habits and dirty money corrupts the world’s biggest Muslim country”, as he later described his mission in his journal. Mukhlas had harboured a virulent hatred of non-believers in general, and Westerners in particular since childhood. In a TIME report last November, Simon Elagans described how he grew up in Tenggulun, East Java, a very religious region of Indonesia, where fundamentalist sects such as Wahhabism compete with more moderate Muslim sects for the allegiance of the youth. There he attended the Al-Islam boarding school where he became a vociferous reader of the Koran and an outspoken proponent of holy war. When the police started investigating his activities he fled Indonesia to serve as a jihadi in Malaysia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he gained the confidence of Osama bin Laden. This background qualified him – he was made commander-in-charge of the Bali hit.

Mukhlas chose as his field-commander Imam Samudra a fellow jihadi who had also made a name for himself in Afghanistan. Samudra came from Serang, a market town in West Java, another very religious region of Indonesia, where Darul Islam extremists had violently campaigned for a Taliban-style Islamic regime after Indonesia gained independence from the Dutch. As his sister told it to Eric Ellis, (from behind her burka-like veil, which is unusual dress for Indonesian Muslims) Samudra grew up poor and miserable “as a test of Allah”. He was studious, “topping his class each year during his time at high school”. Samudra’s education combined Western technology, in the form of electronics; and Medieval theology, in the form of Darul Islamic radicalism. He left home in 1990 and followed the same jihadi odyssey as Mukhlas. His education bore fruit. He became a computer technician – and a terrorist.

As reported by Ellis in The Bulletin of March 5th, Samudra returned to West Java in 2000 “hurt and angry”, after seeing “his Muslim brothers slaughtered” in Afghanistan, Palestine, and Ambon, an Indonesian Island torn by strife between its Christian and Muslim populations. Inspired by the Taliban’s pure Islamist state and spurred on by Abu Bakar Bashir he set about recruiting jihadis to the holy war. Fluent in English and Arabic, with wealthy names to drop, worldly adventures to tell, knowledge of computers to teach, and the “victory” of September 11 to explain, he turned many impressionable Muslim youths into radical recruits. During 2000 and 2001 the “Serang Group”, as the police came to know it, carried out bombings across Indonesia.

The Serang Group, Amrozi, and a number of other terrorists recruited for bomb-making and other skills, were called to join Mukhlas and Sumudra in Solo, where Abu Bakar Bashir lived. There they prepared for the “big hit”. To fund it the Serang Group robbed a Chinese jeweller of about US$50,000, which, as Samudra explained to his charges, was not a crime, since the jeweller was not a believer. Additional funds were added to the war chest from JI and al-Qaeda.

Amrozi brought the Mitsubishi van for US$3,300 and drove it to Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, where he bought ingredients for the bombs from a chemical merchant who recorded the purchase as cooking salts. Amrozi then drove and ferried to Bali. There the group rented four safe houses and set about their final preparations, which included the manufacture of four detonation options: a remote-control mobile-phone device; a 45 minute countdown device; manual switches; and a detonator that engaged when its lid was removed. The first two were failsafe backups, in case the suicide bombers balked at the last moment.

The bombing was planned for Friday 11th to maximise Western, and minimise local victims, but the bombs weren’t ready in time so it had to be postponed for 24-hours. When the white Mitsubishi van drove up to the Sari Club on the Saturday evening about 500 patrons were drinking, chatting, laughing, dancing – the band was playing Eminem’s Without Me. Jake Ryan, a 22 year old student and footballer, was in the club for some end-of-season fun with his team mates.

In The Australian of October 10th, Jake described how the explosion blasted shrapnel into his stomach, shot a piece of someone’s bone into his leg, and hacked half his foot away. On one and a half feet and adrenalin he ran to help a girl who sat in a circle of flame holding someone whose skin was totally blackened. He yelled at her to lift her arms so he could pull her from the fire. “I have no legs” she screamed, and died looking into his eyes. He grabbed someone’s hand and the skin peeled off like a glove. During his ride to the hospital a Balinese man died beside him.

Jake analysed the nature of the act committed that evening in Bali, with the clarity of the self evident – a clarity that eludes so many. “People who blame the West … should blame the cowards who actually detonated the bomb and the bastards who financed them. It isn’t difficult to work out. … If terrorists aren’t stopped, they’ll keep going, from New York to Bali to wherever next”.

Since their arrests Amrozi has outraged the Australian public with his smiling bravado, Mukhlas with his snarling menace, Samundra with his sneering malevolence, and all the terrorists with their blatant boasts about their perpetration of the atrocity and their threats of more terror to come.

Amrozi and Samudra declared that their actions were justified because those killed were sinners and infidels and the Sari Club was a “place of adultery”. The terrorists expected it to be full of Americans, but when they discovered they had killed mainly Australians one of them quipped: “Australians, Americans, whatever – they are all white people.” In his journal (revealed by Wayne Miller in The Age, of July 5th), Mukhlas declared that Westerners are “dirty animals and insects that need to be wiped out”.

Inconveniently for the appeasers who argue that terrorism is retaliation for Western “aggression” in Afghanistan or Iraq or Palestine; the terrorists’ rhetoric is not tied to any particular American action. Afghanistan Iraq and Palestine are cited, but alongside Ambon, East Timor, Kashmir, Bosnia, even Chechnya. America, England and Australia are cited as enemies, but alongside Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Russia, China, India, Sweden, Belgium, even France.

The terrorists are not retaliating against aggression – they are the cannon fodder of a global struggle to destroy the West. Their hatred and desperation is driven by the realisation that if the West survives its freedom and affluence will sooner or later seduce their youth and doom their dream of a Medieval world of submission and piety.

If their brutality is retaliation, it is retaliation against liberty, prosperity and happiness on earth.

Inconveniently for the neo-Marxist types who try to tie terrorism to some sort of rebellion of the impoverished masses against their Capitalist exploiters, economic repression rarely enters the terrorists’ rhetoric. Some of them came from miserably poor circumstances, some from wealthy circumstances, but regardless of their circumstances they treat wealth as of tangential importance only. Money is important as a means to a terrorist end, rather than as a value they want to acquire. They demonstrate little concern for the poverty of their families, consigning that responsibility to Allah. Their ideal is the world of the Taliban, and its hardships and squalor are of no importance to them. Their hatred of Westerners is driven less by any wish to possess their wealth than by bitter resentment at the irreligious manner in which Westerners choose to enjoy it.

The terrorist manifesto was summed up best by Amrozi in an impromptu outburst on the 18th May. As reported by Cindy Wockner in The Herald Sun on May 19th, Amrozi, speaking “as if he had learned the response by rote and was just itching for a podium from which to finally speak” explained that the West (“Americans, Jews and their allies”) used “six instruments of global domination” to try and control Muslims around the world: “secularism, democracy, human rights, the free market, and opposition to terrorism, and drugs”. (The last refers to his belief that Westerners corrupt Muslims by selling them drugs. And presumably alcohol, since it is banned by the Koran.) He then “went into a lengthy and detailed explanation, emphasising each of the six points separately”. In the name of these six “brutal” tenants, he declared, the West has “brought terrorism on itself”. Such is the rationale for a terrorists desperate hatred. “There will be more bombs until the Westerners are finished” vowed Amrozi, “we are going to destroy your countries all round the world.”

In The Australian of 5th September, Sian Powell reported how Mukhlas had identified the Westerners who most offend him: the US, George W. Bush, George Soros, Zionists, Rotary and Lions clubs, and supermarket chains. All of these, Mukhlas pronounced, are “capitalist terrorists” whose “programs of destruction and lust” are demoralising society.

Mukhlas grew up in towns where supermarkets sit in dramatic contrast to the dusty, drab, shops, businesses and homes that swelter around them. Air conditioned, colourful, busy, and packed with life sustaining and enhancing imported and local goods, a supermarket is an oasis where the lust for life can survive – an escape from the desert of Islamic fundamentalism. To Mukhlas they represent terrorist threats that must be destroyed. The rationalizations the terrorists recite, from the predictable to the bizarre, all rest on the premise that their atrocities are sanctioned as acts of a holy war against the wicked West. But these are not medieval knights crusading for a glorious Islamic empire. They have seen the benefits the West can offer in their supermarkets, and in the skyscrapers of New York, Singapore and Jakarta; and they have seen what their religious ideal produces in the hovels of Afghanistan – but they fight for the destruction of the former to preserve the latter. They have seen the youth celebrating in Bali, displaying their beauty, surfing, dancing; and they have seen the Taliban youth, entombed in their burkas, banned from kite-flying lest they be seduced by so worldly a pleasure. But they fight for the destruction of the former to preserve the latter.

“The Americans are fighting so they can live and enjoy the material things of life” said Taliban official Mohammad Hussein Mostassed, “but we are fighting so we can die in the cause of God”.

Amrozi could have joined the Western world as a mechanic, Samudra as a computer technician, Mukhlas as a businessman. But instead they turned the West’s life-enhancing products into instruments of death; in order that Western industry, technology, business and abundance be destroyed to make way for a village society where women submit to men, men to Mullahs, Mullahs to the Koran, and all to drudgery and penitence on earth in preparation for death.

“You who’ve never grasped the nature of evil, you who describe them as ‘misguided idealists’–may the God you invented forgive you!” said the hero John Galt in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, “–they are the essence of evil, they, those anti-living objects who seek, by devouring the world, to fill the selfless zero of their soul. It is not your wealth that they’re after. Theirs is a conspiracy against the mind, which means: against life and man.”

John Dawson is a businessman and freelance writer from Melbourne Australia. He runs the website

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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