(Reuters) - Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the suspected mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people, walked free from prison on Friday after serving 10 years behind bars.
Bashir, 82, is regarded as the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a jihadist network with ties to al Qaeda, that was blamed for the Bali attacks and a series of others in the world's biggest Muslim majority country.
Bashir was imprisoned for his links to a militant training camp in Aceh province, but never convicted over the Bali bombings. He will now undergo a deradicalisation programme amid concerns over his continued influence in extremist circles.
Here are some facts about the Bali bombings and Indonesia's efforts to crackdown on militants.
- On Oct. 12, 2002, blasts targeting nightspots popular with tourists in Bali’s Kuta Beach killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. JI was blamed for Indonesia's worst ever militant attacks and three members of the group were later executed for their role in the bombings.
- JI was also linked to a series of other attacks including the 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta, the 2004 Australian embassy bombing, a second round of bombings in Bali in 2005 and another attack on the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton hotel in 2009.
- In the wake of the Bali attacks and with backing from Australia and the United States, Indonesia set up an elite anti-terrorist unit called Densus 88 that weakened JI and resulted in scores of suspected militants being arrested or killed.- Indonesia has also pioneered deradicalisation schemes for convicted militants, some of whom had trained in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the southern Philippines. The schemes have been both praised and criticised for their effectiveness.
- As JI has dropped out of the headlines, other groups such as the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) have increased in prominence and been blamed for new attacks.
- A resurgence in attacks has also been linked to the hundreds of Indonesian that went to Syria and Iraq to fight for Islamic State before returning.
- Police blamed JAD for suicide attacks in 2018 on churches and a police post in the city of Surabaya that killed over 30 people and were carried out by two radicalised families including a child of eight years old who survived.
- In the aftermath of these attacks, Indonesia's parliament approved tougher anti-terrorism laws, including powers to preemptively detain suspects for longer and prosecute those who join or recruit for militant groups.
- Despite JI's fading prominence, Zulkarnaen, a man believed to be one of the most senior members of JI and involved in making the bombs for the attacks, was arrested last month after managing to avoid detection for years.
- Nava Nuraniyah, a researcher on militant Islam studying at the Australian National University, said JI currently appeared less of a risk than IS-linked cells of launching attacks. JI was now focused on recruitment, building networks, funding and preparing military capacity, she said. It had also used the Syrian conflict as a way of sending members for training abroad.
"JI remains dangerous, but dangerous in the long run," said Nava.
(Reporting by Ed Davies and Stanley Widianto; Editing by Michael Perry)