Last Wednesday morning, 25-year-old Indonesian university dropout Zakiah Aini wrote a letter saying goodbye to her family and headed out of the house. As morning turned to dusk, the quiet millennial’s parents began to worry – there had been no word from Zakiah, who rarely left the family home. They became even more anxious when her sister found the goodbye note. “Her sister wanted to report her [missing] but didn’t quite know where to report to,” said Reno Fitria Sari, a lecturer in forensic psychology at Paramadina University. Suddenly, news broke that a woman had attacked the national police headquarters in Jakarta and been shot dead . Soon afterwards, police officers arrived to tell the family that the attacker had been none other than Zakiah Aini. Zakiah became the second woman in the span of four days to carry out a terror attack in the world’s most populous Muslim nation of 270 million people. On Sunday, a woman and her husband detonated explosives outside a church in Makassar , South Sulawesi, killing themselves and injuring 20 civilians. Police said Zakiah acted as a lone wolf and based on initial investigations had been inspired by Islamic State ideology. She posted a picture of an Isis flag on her Instagram account and wrote about the struggles of jihad (holy war) just 21 hours before her death. But there are signs she was radicalised years before her fateful demise. Her beliefs also give an insight into the radical doctrine held by the country’s Isis supporters and would-be jihadis. Isis supporters in Indonesia, Malaysia call for more violence after church attack Zakiah was an undergraduate at Gunadarma University in Jakarta in 2013, but she rarely attended classes and dropped out during the fifth semester despite achieving good grades – local media reports said she had a grade-point average of 3.1 to 3.2. Her failure to complete her university studies, despite being a bright student and coming from a middle class family, should have been a red flag, Nasir Abas, former leader of al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asia branch Jemaah Islmiyah, told This Week in Asia . “Her family could afford to pay for her education as they’re from the middle class. For sure it was her takfiri belief that made her drop out of university,” he said, referring to the Arabic word for a Muslim who accuses another of apostasy, or not being a true believer. Reno, the forensic psychology lecturer who has interviewed some 80 convicted terrorists as part of her work, said initial indications showed Zakiah deliberately chose not to continue with her studies because she believed her education was taghut – a term used in Islam to denote a focus of worship other than God. “[She thought this] because during her education, she needed to follow the teachings of her lecturer, when her lecturer was only a human being,” Reno said. “Other issues would [include] that there were other students who did not cover themselves up [according to Muslim beliefs].” Reno added that Zakiah also spent a lot of time at home and it was “possible” she spent a lot of time in “cyberspace” and was radicalised online. The brain washing and indoctrination changed Zakiah’s way of thinking – she very much hated the current age and the environment around her Sofyan Tsauri, former al-Qaeda member The letter Zakiah left behind for her family contained more evidence of her radicalised state of mind, with a drawing of a building labelled “jihad” on top and “tawhid” – a term for one of Islam’s central tenets that declares absolute monotheism – on the bottom. Sofyan Tsauri, a former senior member of al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia, told This Week In Asia that Zakiah writing “jihad” on top of the sketch of the building showed how strong her belief in it was. “[It showed her belief] that if she died while waging jihad, she would accumulate merits for her family [as a sign] that she loves [them],” said Sofyan, who was previously jailed for procuring weapons for a terror training camp in Aceh, North Sumatra. Zakiah also told her family not to participate in the country’s future elections, a point Sofyan said was important to note. “Zakiah told her family to stay away from elections, that they give birth to idolatry and the constitution is man-made. This [belief] is a special feature of salafi takfiri jihadis,” he said, referring to Isis ideology. “From here, the brain washing and indoctrination changed Zakiah’s way of thinking – she very much hated the current age and the environment around her,” said Sofyan, adding that Zakiah was also worried her Muslim family would become apostates. Her attack on the police headquarters came just four days after the Makassar church bombing in South Sulawesi, which was carried out by a newlywed couple – with the wife believed to be four months pregnant. Police said the couple belonged to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), Indonesia’s largest Isis affiliate, which has been blamed for all major terror attacks in the country since 2016. Muh Taufiqurrohman, senior researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies, said the Makassar bombings were carried out “to annihilate the enemies of Islam” – infidels and non-Muslims, as represented by Catholic people. How social media helps spread extremist content in Indonesia “It [also so] happens that the police chief is a Catholic, so JAD is sending a message to non-Muslims that they will always attack them,” Taufiqurrohman said. Benny Mamoto, head of the National Police Commission and a former senior counterterrorism police officer, told This Week In Asia Zakiah was “inspired by the Makassar bombing”. Mamoto said that the Makassar attack was aimed at avenging the arrests of JAD members before the bombings. In January, some 19 JAD members were arrested in South Sulawesi. According to Mamoto, Indonesian police counterterrorism squad Detachment 88 (Densus 88) had arrested 1,173 suspects between January 2018 and April 1 this year to pre-empt “hundreds of terror attacks”. Taufiqurrohman, the radicalisation specialist, said the Jakarta attack was “to fight against those opposing the establishment of Islamic State” and enforcement of Islamic law, and to avenge the arrests and killings of Isis supporters. In Indonesia, women are not given enough space in the real world to show their existence. Isis gives them the opportunity for that Rizka Nurul, Institute for International Peace Building The two attacks have highlighted the increasing involvement of women in Indonesian terrorism, which was once the preserve of men. “In Indonesia, women are not given enough space in the real world to show their existence. Isis gives them the opportunity for that,” said Rizka Nurul of the Institute for International Peace Building, adding that women are also sometimes driven by depression, societal pressure and indoctrination. Women are also involved in spreading propaganda, as well as recruiting and fundraising for Isis, “but suicide bombings which are published in Amaq (Isis’ news agency) are seen as a big achievement for [women jihadis],” Rizka said. “For them, they feel they are being acknowledged and it is seen as a prestigious honour.” Mamoto, of the National Police Commission, said all Indonesian terror networks that had pledged allegiance to Isis followed a similar pattern: “That is to use children and women, like what took place in Makassar and [at the] National Police Headquarters.” Surabaya redux: terror time bomb fears as Indonesia frees Islamic extremists In 2018, a family of six carried out suicide attacks at three separate churches in Indonesia . The children were aged 9-18. It marked the first time anywhere in the world that an entire family had been turned into a terrorist suicide squad. On Friday, thousands of police personnel were deployed across the country to secure churches as Christians observed Holy Week in the lead up to Easter Sunday. The Association of Indonesian Churches (PGI) urged Christians not to be afraid and to continue to carry out their Holy Week and Easter celebration even though they are “under the shadow of the pandemic and terror” attacks. “Easter marks the victory of overcoming death and therefore all forms of fear and worries ought to be expelled,” Gomar Gultom, head of PGI, told This Week In Asia , adding that Indonesia’s Christians placed their full faith in the police and military to safeguard the security of Easter celebrations.