Why do al-Qaida and the Islamic State continue to target Indonesia? – The diplomat
Although from 2000 to 2009, the militant group linked to al-Qaida Jemaah Islamiyyah (JI) was the main perpetrator of the bombings in Indonesia, in recent years groups affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) have launched attacks against stopping the base. Between January 2016 and March 2021, pro-IS groups were responsible for 13 attacks that left 68 dead and 122 injured, not to mention damage to property and public infrastructure. While various Indonesian counterterrorism agencies, including the armed forces and police, and dedicated units such as the BNPT and Densus-88, have actively neutralized terrorist groups, it appears that this scourge does not end. Why is this so?
Although the JI is at its lowest since the 2009 attacks in Jakarta, in 2020, 30 suspected members of the JI were arrested in Indonesia: 22 in Java and 8 in Sumatra. In February and March of this year, 22 JI members were captured in East Java, especially in the town of Malang. The arrests came after Indonesian counterterrorism units captured Para Wijayanto, the leader or “emir” of the JI, in Bekasi, West Java, in June 2019.
Another major arrest took place in October 2020 in Lampung, Sumatra, when six JI members were captured, including prominent activist Aris Sumarsono (aka Zulkarnaen). A key JI field agent and skilled bomb maker, Aris was the commander of the JI. Laskar Khos, a specialized military unit for operations and a close associate of Hambali, who was responsible for the October 2002 bombings in Bali, and is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. Other close associates of Aris included Dulmatin and Umar Patek, senior JI leaders during the period 2000-2009. Aris is believed to have been involved in the 2002 Bali bombings, the 2003 bombing of the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta, the 2004 bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and another bombing in Bali. in 2005. The first bombing killed 202 people and the JW Marriott hotel bombing killed 12 people. Aris had been on the run since 2003 and his arrest was a major success for Indonesian counterterrorism agencies.
Today, many analysts say the JI remains Indonesia’s most dangerous, organized, and best-armed terrorist group. The number of its active members, mainly in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, is estimated at 6,000. As of 2010, however, JI has reportedly been in a i dad, or preparation, phase, rather than in a phase of active operations.
This is clear from the arrests of 2019 and 2020. Following the arrest of Para Wijayanto and some of his close associates, it became clear that the JI was active in building its financial base by getting involved in legitimate businesses such as plantation ownership, real estate brokerage, and restaurant and car rental operations, unlike the previous one. armed robbery method.
Para Wijayanto, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in July 2020, was also heavily involved in training the next group of JI fighters by sending them to Syria to train with the pro-al-Qaida Jabhat Al group. -Nusra. Some 96 members of the JI received military training in Semarang alone, and many more were sent to Syria for combat training and experience. While some JI members have died in Syria, many are believed to have returned to be ready when military operations are launched in the near future. Interestingly, of the 30 JI agents arrested in 2020 and 22 in 2021, the majority were involved in military training or fundraising, with only a small number assigned to administrative duties.
JI continues to be motivated by the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia. He believes that Indonesia and its secular leaders have deviated from the promise to give Islam special importance, as agreed in the Jakarta Charter of 1945. More importantly, JI believes that Indonesia is to increasingly anti-Islamic, allowing non-Muslims, Chinese and foreigners, to dominate the economy to the detriment of Indonesia and its people. Indonesia is also said to be closely aligned with the anti-Islamic West, and most killings of jihadists by Densus-88 are considered deliberate, given that this special force, initially dominated by Christians, was created with assistance from the United States and Australia.
While JI is biding his time, since 2016, ISIS and its affiliates have come to pose a more immediate threat, evident by the number of Indonesians who have ‘migrated’ to Iraq and Syria to support ISIS as well as by the growth of affiliates pro-ISIS, the most dangerous of which were Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) and Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT).
The 13 terrorist attacks in Indonesia since January 2016 have been carried out by pro-IS affiliates. Of the more than 1,200 Southeast Asian fighters who have visited Iraq and Syria since July 2014, the majority were Indonesians. It also included many family members. Pro-IS leaders such as Bahrumsyah have been able to use social media and recruiting videos to lure Indonesians to Iraq and Syria, where many have taken part in combat and received valuable weapons training, have developed new networks and were ideologically fortified. . The creation in September 2014 of Katibah Nusantara, a military unit for Malay speakers, testified to the strength and presence of Indonesian fighters in Iraq and Syria.
Following ISIS’s military defeat in the Middle East and the death of its leader, Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi in October 2019, there have been a number of consequences for Indonesia. The first was the issue of âIS returneesâ from the Middle East, including those with and without combat experience. Second, the impact of ISIS on Indonesia and the rise of pro-ISIS affiliates in the country, the two most prominent being JAD and MIT. The third has been the role of ISIS in urging Indonesian jihadists to adopt pro-ISIS strategies and tactics as part of the creation of an Islamic caliphate. Finally, these returnees have the potential to radicalize others, join old terrorist groups, create new ones, plan attacks with their newfound knowledge, and even launch attacks outside of Indonesia like this. occurred in the Philippines.
This is the context in which a lone wolf husband-wife suicide squad blew themselves up outside a Catholic church in Makassar, Sulawesi on the morning of March 28.
Both suicide bombers died and 20 others were injured in the attack. The church held the Palm Sunday service about five days before Easter, which marks the date of Christ’s crucifixion.
JAD is believed to be behind the attack. This group has been active in South Sulawesi, having been born in the region in 2015. The region also has a long history of terrorism, particularly around Poso, where many terrorist groups are known to have operated in the past, including including Darul Islam, JI, and MIT. Many JAD members have recently been killed or arrested in Makassar. In January of this year, 20 members of the JAD were arrested and two killed by security forces. Likewise, suicide bombings against women and families, including children, are a hallmark of JAD, as seen in similar attacks in Surabaya in May 2018.
The Makassar bombers are also believed to be linked to the January 2019 Jolo bombing in Mindanao, Philippines, also carried out by a husband and wife team, in which 22 were killed and more than 100 injured. Another feature of the JAD that was evident in the Makassar attack was the use of agents from the area of ââoperations. The JAD has also targeted Christian churches in the past, such as Surabaya in May 2018 and Jolo in January 2019. The Makassar bombing could also be a revenge attack for the arrest and murder of JAD members in January. . Finally, members of the JAD are also known to believe that the path to paradise is through martyrdom.
There is also the question of whether JAD and MIT are cooperating in South Sulawesi, particularly at a time when security forces have been trying to eliminate the latter for two years. It is also believed that many former JAD members could return to South Sulawesi to participate in combat operations, in part to fight for MIT or to establish a secure base area (qoidah aminah) in the region, at a time when Indonesian authorities are concerned about COVID-19.
While Aman Abdurrahman, founder and spiritual leader of the JAD, may be in prison, the terrorist group also operates autonomously, with local leaders making their own strategic and tactical decisions, which in turn complicates the task. law enforcement. predict JAD’s next attack.
Even though the overall scale of the Makassar attack was small compared to other iconic attacks from Bali or Jakarta, its importance nevertheless cannot be ignored. It is a signal that the terrorists are still there, are able to launch attacks and are able to make improvised bombs that cause great damage. As for South Sulawesi, the JAD may aim to rekindle religious tensions in the province. The attack was timed not only with the approach of Good Friday and Easter, but also just before the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Historically, the province has a history of violent Christian-Muslim relations, particularly in the period 1998-2001, and rekindling it may be one of the targets of the attack.
Even though 15 JAD members and their supporters have been arrested since the Makassar attack, one can well imagine that more arrests are likely, as happened in the aftermath of the JAD-related bombings. of May 2018 in Surabaya. The JAD network in Makassar and South Sulawesi is likely targeted, especially following the wave of JAD arrests in January. Similarly, on March 31, a lone wolf assailant was killed when she attacked the Jakarta National Police Headquarters. She is suspected of being affiliated with the pro-IS JAD.
This may well provoke more revenge attacks from JAD members, especially if the cells operate autonomously, have had previous experience with armed groups, for example in Sabah or Mindanao, or have connections with MIT, which is also fighting for its survival under Ali’s leadership. Kalora, who was reportedly injured in a recent operation.
The Makassar suicide bombing reminds us that the threat of violent terrorism is still very real in Indonesia. While the country’s counterterrorism operations have achieved significant success, they have never been able to completely extinguish the threat. The remote nature of the archipelago, the presence of the “frontier” provinces of Aceh, Sulawesi and Papua, and the continuing threat of terrorism in the southern Philippines, where many extremist and terrorist groups cooperate with their Indonesian counterparts – to say nothing of the distraction of COVID-19 – all suggest Indonesia will be bogged down with the threat of terrorism for some time.