Motives and Behaviours of Violent Extremist Groups in Southeast Asia: Violent Extremism in Indonesia

Motives and Behaviours of Violent Extremist Groups in Southeast Asia: Violent Extremism in Indonesia

In recent years, terror attacks in Indonesia have been carried out by ISIS-inspired groups. One of them is JAD (Jamaah Ansharut Daulah), which acts as an umbrella organization for almost 24 groups that pledged allegiance to the then-ISIL leader, Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi (UNSC, n.d). 

Besides JAD, Indonesia, (with a population of 250 million) hosts 2 million ISIS followers. Furthermore, three influential local entities claim to represent ISIS in Indonesia (Beech, 2016). In the last few years, there have been 3 major attacks. 

  • Surabaya Church Attacks (13 May 2018)

A family of six with two daughters (aged 9 and 12 years) and two sons (aged 16 and 18) carried suicide bombs into three different churches within minutes of each other, effectively killing 13 and injuring 41, two of which were police guarding the Sunday service. The family belonged to JAD, an ISIL-inspired network. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack with no produced evidence.

Motive: ISIL ideology. The ideology seeks to establish a caliphate, a form of government led by a supreme leader—believed to be chosen by God.

  • Medan Suicide Bombing (13 November 2019)

24 year old man detonated a suicide bomb at a police headquarter in Medan, Indonesia. Six people suffered injuries from the attack. 

Motive: Unknown. It is believed he was acting alone.

  • Makassar Suicide Bombing (28 March 2021)

A newly-wed couple in their 20s detonated bombs at the side entrance of a church in Makassar, Indonesia. The attack injured 14 people, including a church official who stopped the attackers from entering the cathedral. The couple was linked to JAD (Jamaah Ansharut Daulah), an ISIL-inspired network. 

Motive: ISIL ideology. 


  • “Indonesia church bombings: police say one family and their children behind attacks”. The Guardian. May 13, 2018.
  • “What ISIS Really Wants”. The Atlantic. March, 2015.
  • “24-year-old man behind suicide bombing at Medan Police HQ, police confirm”. The Jakarta Post. November 13, 2019.
  • “Indonesia bombing: Worshippers wounded in Makassar church attack”. BBC. March 28, 2021.