Former Al Qaida-linked militant Nasir Abas went from training extremist to a comic book hero who fights against terrorism. The real life adventures of Abas, who carried out the deadly Bali bombings in 2002, are told by a new comic book in Indonesia that chronicles his transformation from international foe to invaluable ally.
“I want children to learn from my experience … I don’t want them to make the same mistakes,” Abas said.
The colorful 137-page comic, titled “I Found the Meaning of Jihad,” makes its debut in bookstores today and will be handed out at some schools and libraries. More than 10,000 copies have been printed and children are excited about the book.
“Oh. That’s gotta be Osama bin Laden,” said 10-year-old Anif Ahmad Aulia, pointing at a picture of a white-bearded priest, AFP reported.
“Ya, he’s evil,” chimed in fifth grader Qinthara Taqiyyah. “But I like this comic…very colorful and fun!”
“Is that the hero?” another child asked, pointing at Abas.
The children do not know that Abas was not always a hero. For years, he was one of the most wanted jihadists in South East Asia.
“He was a very dangerous man because he was one of the key figures in Jemaah Islamiya,” said Indonesia’s top anti-terrorist police officer General Ansyaad Mbaisaid, according to the BBC.
Abas is a former member of al-Qaida’s regional affiliate, Jemaah Islamiya (JI). He established Camp Hudabiya, a jihadi training camp where militants were taught combat training, small arms and weapons training and knowledge about explosives, reported the BBC. Abas eventually became the head of JI’s military training division. He has never kept his involvement at Camp Hudabiya a secret.
According to the BBC, when asked if he was he training people to kill, Abas responded, “I train people for war, for battle. We are killing for defense. We are fighting for our right. And we are not attacking civilians but soldiers.”
Abas’ miraculous transformation came in 1998, when bin Laden commanded al-Qaida to take revenge against Americans. However, Abas believed Islam only condoned the killing of “enemies” when there was a clearly-defined battleground and a direct threat. Abas carried out the Bali bombings in 2002 but he realized his past actions did not align with the Koran after he was captured in 2003, according to his own account.
Abas joined a government program to convince his former comrades that killing unarmed civilians in the name of their faith was wrong. He also started working with the police, by informing them about the inner-workings of the JI network.