The Astana Anyar Police Station Bombing and Recidivism: Questioning the Role of BNPT?

The aftermath of the Astana Anyar suicide bombing in Bandung, West Java, on 7 December 2022. Credit: Antara Foto/Novrian Arbi.


On 7 December 2022, a former terrorist inmate committed a suicide bombing at a police station in Astana Anyar, Bandung, West Java, killing one police officer and wounding eight people. The perpetrator was later identified as Agus Sujatno or Agus Muslim or Abu Muslim.

The National Police (Polri) Chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo stated that Agus was imprisoned in Nusakambangan prison for his involvement in the Cicendo Bombing 2017 and finished his sentence in October 2021. Listyo added that Agus was reluctant to join the deradicalization program. This case has raised doubt over the effectiveness of Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Terorisme (BNPT) deradicalization program.

Agus and Deradicalization Program

According to fellow former inmate Hendro Fernando, Agus refused to join deradicalization program in prison, earning him the category of “red” or high-risk inmate. After his release, Agus stayed in Sukoharjo, Central Java, with his family. Hendro suggested that Agus re-joined the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) network in Central Java.

Although there are still limited details about Agus’ deradicalization and rehabilitation programs, many people have voiced out their criticism against BNPT, the national body charged with executing deradicalization program. For instance, member of Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR) Commission III, Santoso, argued that with regards to its deradicalization program, BNPT tends to focus on spending the allocated budget instead of genuinely trying to foster tolerance. In other words, it focuses on the “output” instead of the “outcome”.

This criticism was echoed by terrorism observer Al Chaidar, who opined that BNPT’s deradicalization program should be re-evaluated. He went further by calling for BNPT’s dissolution if the program is found to be ineffective.

The Mandate of BNPT

Based on the revised law on terrorism, Law No. 5/2018, BNPT has an overarching mandate to implement the country’s counterterrorism (CT) efforts, including formulating and implementing policies; coordinating the policies, and; conducting counter-radicalization and deradicalization programs. 

The public have high expectations toward the agency due to its overarching mandate. BNPT’s deradicalization programs have been heavily criticized because the programs preach to the converted; they mostly engage prisoners who are already disengaged or distancing themselves from violent actions. The programs also tend to focus on instilling the loyalty of the prisoners to the national ideology of Pancasila in a seminar or lecture setting. Nonetheless, BNPT also provides entrepreneurship training for the inmates, hoping that it would be useful for them once they finish their sentences and return to their respective hometowns.

The public may be more familiar with BNPT as an agency that runs deradicalization programs. In fact, however, BNPT is not the only agency which carries out this mandate. Other organizations are tasked with this as well. The Directorate General of Correction has been working closely with various civil society organizations (CSOs) in designing such programs for inmates. For instance, DGC has been partnering with Search for Common Ground (SCFG) Indonesia in creating a conflict management training program for the inmates.

Unfortunately, the coordination between BNPT and DGC tends to be poor. It remains unclear who should bear the responsibility in managing and implementing the in-prison deradicalization program.

The special CT unit in Polri, Detachment 88, also has its own program under Unit Identifikasi dan Sosialisasi (Directorate of Identification and Socialisation – Idensos). Nevertheless, it is unlikely for inmates or former inmates to participate in both Idensos and BNPT’s deradicalization programs.

Interestingly, in 2021, some former terrorist inmates petitioned to dissolve BNPT. Many of the signatories were former terrorist inmates who are under the care of Idensos. The petition claimed that BNPT’s program is ineffective and that Detachment 88’s program is more effective. Although Detachment 88 asserted that they were unaware of the petition, the petition itself indicates that inmates or former inmates do not view deradicalization program as a collaborative initiative between relevant institutions.

The Challenge of Reintegration Program

In the past few years, Polri has arrested hundreds of terrorist suspects. Polri arrested 232 and 370 terrorist suspects in 2020 and 2021 respectively. The revised law on terrorism has also empowered the security apparatus to carry out preventive detention. However, majority of terrorist suspects will only serve their sentence for three to four years as their involvement in terror plots tend to be limited. Upon their release, monitoring the movements of the former inmates and providing a regular reintegration program can be very challenging as these people are scattered across the country.

Both governmental and non-governmental agencies have attempted to provide reintegration programs for the former inmates. These programs try to assist the former inmates to reintegrate into society. For example, BNPT has developed Kawasan Terpadu Nusantara (Archipelago Integrated Area – KTN) that provides an opportunity for former inmates to work as farmers. KTN has been developed in West Java, Central Java, East Java and West Nusa Tenggara thus far.

Meanwhile, a notable initiative from a non-governmental organization (NGO) is DeBintal Foundation which was established in 2020. DeBintal is run by former terrorist inmates and supervised by Detachment 88. The foundation owns a poultry farm in Bekasi, West Java. Despite the good intention, DeBintal Foundation has received severe criticism from the “high risk” individuals. They accused DeBintal Foundation members as murtad (apostates) because they are working with Detachment 88.

Although there have been several initiatives from the government and NGOs, most of these are based in Jakarta and its neighboring cities. Regular visit to monitor the progress and current conditions of ex-inmates in all parts of Indonesia would be very taxing. Hence, the role of the regional government is important.

 In 2021, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued Peraturan Presiden tentang Rencana Aksi Nasional Pencegahan dan Penanggulangan Ekstremisme Berbasis Kekerasan yang Mengarah pada Terorisme Tahun 2020-2024 (Presidential Regulation on the National Action Plan for the Prevention and Countermeasures of Violent-Based Extremism Leading to Terrorism 2020-2024). The regulation acknowledges the importance of engaging regional government in the country’s Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) efforts.

On this front, BNPT has been working with P/CVE CSOs in assisting the regional government to create their own Regional Action Plan (RAP). There are a few regional governments which have issued their own RAP, such as Aceh, Central Java and Central Sulawesi. These Plans enables the identification of necessary activities and partners in assisting the reintegration process of former inmates. However, it is still a long way to go before we can see all regions to issue their own RAP, as the process to produce one depends on the political will of regional leaders and relevant regional bodies.

Enhancing the Coordinating Role of BNPT

Dissolving BNPT may not be an appropriate solution to enhance Indonesia’s deradicalization program. Although BNPT’s programs are found wanting, Indonesia still needs a coordinating body to manage and organize all of its P/CVE initiatives.

BNPT should focus more on its coordinating role as there have been plenty of valuable initiatives in Indonesia done by both governmental and non-governmental agencies. However, sometimes the initiatives overlap with each other which leads to a waste of resources. BNPT should make the best use of its Indonesia Knowledge Hub (IK-HUB) platform to map out the existing initiatives. The platform is a work in progress and needs a lot of improvements. Relevant users should be able to easily access and navigate the site, as well as understanding the available data on the platform.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of STRAT.O.SPHERE CONSULTING PTE LTD.

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  • Chaula R. Anindya is a PhD candidate at the Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto and an alumnus of Strategic Studies, RSIS, NTU, Singapore. Her research interests include radicalization, deradicalisation, counterterrorism policies, and civil-military relations in Indonesia.