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'Attacks were led by Syria-based Indonesian militant'

MASTERMIND: Islamic State militant Bahrun Naim is said to have planned the Jakarta attacks for a while. - PHOTO: GOOGLE+

The alleged planner of the attack in Jakarta on Thursday is believed to be Indonesian militant Bahrun Naim, a leader of militant group Katibah Nusantara.

Indonesian police believe Bahrun is pulling strings from Raqqa, Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria.

Jakarta police chief Tito Karnavian said: "His vision is to unite all Isis-supporting elements in South-east Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines," said.

He added that Bahrun had been planning the attack on Jakarta for a while.

Seven years ago, Bahrun was quietly running an Internet cafe in the small Indonesian city of Solo.

On Thursday, he was identified as the mastermind behind the Jakarta attack.

Bahrun was arrested in 2011 for illegal arms possession and jailed for three years.

The police said that since then, he has emerged as a key player in militant networks that have sprouted around Solo and across Central Java.

A year ago, he went to Syria to join the frontlines of Isis.

After the coordinated attacks across Paris in November, the militant intellectual published a blog in which he explained to his followers how it was easy to move jihad from "guerrilla warfare" in Indonesia's equatorial jungles to a city.

Reuters contacted Bahrun on Nov 24 on Telegram social messaging, using details provided by one of his acquaintances.

In that exchange, he said there were more than enough Isis supporters to "carry out an action" in Indonesia.

"Just waiting for the right trigger," said the man who identified himself as Bahrun.

In the Telegram exchange with Reuters, Bahrun also spoke of more mundane affairs, explaining that he enjoyed life in Syria and had no plans to return to Indonesia.

SYRIA

"I move around, depending on where our emir orders us to go," said Bahrun.

"It's good here in Syria. There's electricity, accommodation, water and it's free. The services provided by them are good..."

Bahrun could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Intelligence experts said that not long after that Telegram exchange, intelligence officials began to pick up talk in social messaging chatrooms that an attack on Indonesia was imminent.

"Chatter among Islamists began to become more organised last month and there were discussions for the first time of a multiple attack," said a Jakarta-based security adviser who monitors radical group discussions on mobile messaging services for the government.

- Wires.