Bali bomber Ali Imron becomes comic book character

By Zoe Murphy and Yoko Sari
BBC News

Image caption,
The front cover of the new comic book

The only surviving perpetrator of Indonesia's deadliest terrorist attack, Ali Imron, is an unlikely comic book subject.

But the story of his journey from young Muslim to convicted terrorist has been chronicled in a new comic book.

Some 10,000 copies of Ketika Nurani Bicara, or When the Conscience Speaks, will be circulated in schools and libraries from next month, in an attempt to warn the country's youth of the dangers of Islamic extremism.

Ali Imron is currently serving a life sentence for his role in the bombing of the popular resort of Bali that killed 202 people, many of them foreign tourists.

He escaped the death sentence because he repeatedly expressed remorse, and co-operated with police.

"From the time I was instructed to bring the bomb... there was already doubt in my heart. Is this really jihad?" he said at his trial in 2003.


The comic is published by Lasuardi Birru, a not-for-profit organisation based in Jakarta, which works to tackle extremism among young people.

The head of the company, Dhyah Madya Ruth, told the BBC it took a year to gather the material.

"The most difficult thing was getting Ali Imron to open up and talk to us," she told the BBC's Indonesian service.

"Basically we tried to gain his trust. We also faced a little difficulty because of his status as a convicted terrorist which meant we had to deal with difficult bureaucracy. But after about a year, he finally disclosed everything," she said.

The comic opens after Imron's arrest, with a retrospective look at how he was recruited, the planning of the 12 October 2002 attacks, his life on the run and eventual arrest.

The story also features Haji Bambang, a Balinese Muslim who helped evacuate victims in the wake of the attacks; and a Muslim woman whose husband was killed.

"Because it is based on real life, everything in the book is an accurate account of [the experiences] of those involved," Ms Dhyah told the BBC.

She said Imron's character gave tips on how to avoid being recruited by terrorist groups, and warned against radical ideas.

"The goal of this comic book is simple, Ali Imron wants to share his experience because he regrets ever getting involved in terrorism.

"He wants to prevent the young generation from doing what he did," said Ms Dhyah.

At his trial, Ali Imron said Bali had been chosen "because it was frequented by Americans and their associates".

'Raise awareness'

He quoted an imam as saying it was part of a jihad, or holy war, to "defend the people of Afghanistan from America".

In fact, more Australians and Indonesians died than Americans, prompting speculation that the plotters were poorly informed, or manipulated by other people still at large.

Ms Dhyah said she hoped the comic would raise awareness of the impact of radicalism.

She said the medium was chosen to package the message in a way that would be "accepted by children".

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has been hit by a string of terrorist attacks blamed on Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which has links to al-Qaeda.

The group's goal is the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia and in other parts of South East Asia.

In its formative years JI advocated using largely peaceful means to pursue these goals, but since the mid-1990s the group has adopted violent tactics.

There have been no signficant bombings for some time. Security analysts say that while the recent killing and capturing of alleged militants across Indonesia is a sign that police are doing their job, it also shows a possible rejuvenation of terror networks in the country.

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