Who is the Laskar Jihad founder?

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The founder of the now-defunct Laskar Jihad paramilitary group died of a heart attack aged 58 this week in Indonesia.

Jafar Umar Thalib has celebrity status among Indonesians who know about his exploits in Maluku in the 1999-2000 religious conflict.

Laskar Jihad was based in Yogyakarta and supplied volunteers to fight alongside Muslims against Christians during the sectarian conflict.

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In Indonesia, many call him Ustaz Jafar. His last action hero moment was his intervention against a neighbour who played soul music loud at the time of the Fajar prayers.

Jafar and six other men went to his house, cut the electricity with a samurai sword. That happened in February this year.

Jafar has a long history of engagements with the Mujahideen movement. He went to Afghanistan during its war against the Soviet Union in 1987.

He fought and studied for two years under the guidance of Jamilurrahman’s Jamaat al Dawa al Quran in Kunar province.

Jafar met Osama bin Laden in 1987 in Peshawar, at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Although Jafar follows a radical Salafi school of thought, he rejected Osama Bin Ladin’s Al-Qaeda movement, saying he renounces violence and terror ideology. 

MALUKU CONFLICT

The news of Muslim families running for their lives on the Island of Maluku, particularly in the city of Ambon, he did not sit tight.

He believed the Muslim in Indonesia should organise a defence for them. He created the Laskar Jihad, a paramilitary group on January 30, 2000 as an effort to defend and protect Moluccan Muslims.

The group believed Christians in Maluku were attacking Muslims, burning their homes and killing those who resist.

It was a long Maluku sectarian conflict and his assembling of an army of men ready to fight for Jihad gave him fame.

Jafar limited the jihad to defensive action to protect Muslims from Christian attacks.

STONED TO DEATH

In 2001 the police arrested him for allegedly presiding over a makeshift Islamic court that ordered a rapist be stoned to death.

It is illegal under Indonesian law. He allegedly led the execution himself, though he was never prosecuted of his act.

With immense political pressure against the Lashkar Jihad, Jafar disbanded the Laskar Jihad group.

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He was also accused of attempting to overthrow then-president Megawati Sukarnoputri. Which he denied.

Many news portals in Indonesia reported his passing.

They wrote: “Innalillahi wainnailaihirojiun [We belong to Allah and to Allah we shall return], ustad Jafar Umar Thalib has passed away at the Harapan Kita Heart Hospital.

Laskar Jihad was a Yogyakarta-based Islamic group. 

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