Dulmatin, JI’s Top Technician, Trains a New Generation of Fighters

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 3 Issue: 26

Of the known leadership of Jemaah Islamiya (JI) at large, there is no one with a higher price on his head than Joko Pitoyo (known as Dulmatin), who commands a US$10 million bounty offered by the United States. Dulmatin, a skilled technician, remains the most wanted of the Bali bombers, whose bombings of two nightclubs on the resort island killed 202 people in October 2002. Dulmatin is one of the most important al-Qaeda-trained operatives at large, and, of equal importance, he is one of the four top JI leaders known to have sought safe haven in the southern Philippines where JI is regrouping and training a new generation of fighters.

Dulmatin, an Indonesian native, was born in Central Java in 1970. Although he had only limited formal scientific schooling, he developed significant bomb-making and electronics skills. Dulmatin was a student activist on his Central Javanese university campus. Coming from a well-to-do family, he dropped out of the university after being drawn into extremist teachings at al-Mukmin, the religious boarding school established by JI founders Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba’asyir (also known as Abu Bakar Bashir). With his keenness for electronics, it was only natural that he developed an interest in making bombs, and he forged a natural affiliation with JI’s top bomb-maker, Dr. Azahari bin Husin (killed in a raid by Indonesian authorities in October 2005), whom he saw as “a father figure.” He was later trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in the late-1990s.

As Azahari’s protégé, Dulmatin was involved in constructing JI’s first bombs in 2000, as well as the Bali and JW Marriott bombs. The indictment of other Bali bombers made clear that Dulmatin was involved in almost every stage of the attack, from the planning to the actual bomb-making. In a September 2002 meeting, Mukhlas (the supposed mastermind of the Bali attack) also gave Dulmatin 20 million rupiah ($1,300) for bomb components.

Dulmatin fled to Mindanao in the southern Philippines soon after the August 2003 bombing of the JW Marriott in Jakarta. There, he is one of four top JI leaders—including Umar Patek, Zulkifli bin Hir and possibly Abdul Rahman Ayub—who have continued to train members of JI and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camps in the Philippines. His presence has in part explained the ASG’s return to terrorism since 2004. He was the target of Philippines Armed Forces bombing raids in the Liguasan Marsh area in November 2004 and January 2005, where a hardline-member of MILF was believed to have given him sanctuary.

In 2005, Dulmatin and Umar Patek ordered Abdullah Sonata, a JI operative in Central Java who was arrested in conjunction with the September 4, 2004 Australian Embassy bombing, to dispatch additional JI members to Mindanao for training. He has also called for JI suicide bombers to be sent to the Philippines for operations. Dulmatin, along with Zulkarnaen and Abu Rusdan, was designated for involvement in terrorism by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in April, and placed on the UN’s 1267 Committee for terrorist financing in early 2005.