Indonesia: Zulkarnaen, one of the brains of the Bali attacks sentenced to 15 years in prison

Zulkarnaen had been arrested in December 2020. FAJRIN RAHARJO, FAJRIN RAHARJO AFP/File

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Zulkarnaen, as he is known, was one of the masterminds of the Bali bombings which, twenty years ago, killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

He was one of the most seasoned terrorists in Jeemah Islamayiha, the Indonesian franchise of al-Qaeda.  


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He is a veteran of Indonesian terrorism who forged a reputation in the 1980s. Zulkarnaen, whose real name is Arif Sunarso or Sumarsono, was one of the first Islamist militants to join Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invasion. Alongside the Afghan mujahideen, he, the former biology student, very quickly learned the art of sabotage and armed struggle. There he also met several al-Qaeda executives and became a technical instructor.

For ten years, he will train all the fighters from Southeast Asia arriving on Afghan soil.

Back in Indonesia, he headed the military section of Jeemah Islamiyah, the local branch of al-Qaeda.

In this capacity, he is in charge of intelligence activities and supervises most

of the bloody attacks

committed in the early 2000s. In particular against the Marriott hotel in Jakarta in 2003. 

After evading police for 17 years, he was arrested in Sumatra in December 2020. During his trial, he admitted that the Bali bombings were orchestrated by his team.

But still claimed he was never associated with it.

His denials did not convince the Indonesian magistrates.


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  • Indonesia

  • Terrorism

  • al-Qaeda