With Indonesia being the fourth most populous nation on the planet, and with the largest Muslim majority of any country, the threat of Islamic extremism emanating from Indonesia cannot be overlooked. Malaysia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Australia, and the United States are all keenly aware of the threat of terrorism coming from Indonesia. These countries have been involved in investigating attacks that have happened within Indonesia as well as outside of the country. Recently, one of the most potent Indonesian terrorist group that has instigated much havoc in, and outside the country, is the terrorist group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).
One of the tactics that JAD has used to stay under military and police radars is to try to promote themselves as ‘moral Muslims’. For instance, they try to reach out to the communities where they operate, displaying themselves not as fanatics, but as a respectable Islamic group. This display of peace led the Indonesian military and police to withdraw surveillance on them. After only three months of this, JAD carried out the Surabaya attack which targeted three Christian churches in Indonesia, killing 28 and injuring 57 others. The attack was the deadliest terrorist attack in the country since the Bali bombings in 2002 (Beech, Hannah; Suhartono, Muktita. 2019).
In mid-July, Indonesian counter-terrorist unit members captured a suspected militant of JAD. Intelligence obtained from this individual suggests that the militant was planning on bombing several police headquarters – common targets of the group. Showing that Indonesian terrorists are operating throughout the world, “Police displayed a chart at [a recent] news conference, setting out the suspected foreign links of Indonesian militants including a leader…who is believed to be based in an area of Afghanistan where Islamic State militants operate.” Pictured on the same chart was a captured militant “who was arrested in the city of Bekasi in West Java, [and is] suspected of planning…suicide attacks in the capital, Jakarta, during protests in May over a disputed election.” Additionally, JAD is thought to have helped in the January 2019 twin bombings on a Catholic church in neighboring Philippines that killed 20 and injured another 81 individuals (Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Robert Birsel. 2019).
Dedi Prasetyo – the National Police Chief of Indonesia – said that Indonesian extremists that couldn’t travel to Syria and Iraq to help fight alongside ISIS have been traveling instead to Afghanistan where the Islamic State has safe havens. Indonesian extremists that were able to fight with ISIS, as well as those who have traveled back from Afghanistan, have taken lessons learned there and have brought them back to Indonesia. Last year, during crackdowns on JAD, homemade explosives were found in several militant’s houses. Among these were 100 pipe bombs under construction (2018. Home-grown terror group JAD remains a threat in Indonesia despite crackdowns: Experts). The arrests and the discovery of a substantial number of explosive devices suggests further that JAD is a capable terrorist organization able to carry out large-scale terrorism in Indonesia and abroad.
After the governor of Jakarta (Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok) was imprisoned for blasphemy from a fake video made of him mocking a portion of the Koran, politicians feared to offend the Muslim majority. For his reelection, President Joko Widodo selected Ma’ruf Amin to run as his vice president. Amin was previously the lead cleric of Nahdlatul Ulama, which is the world’s largest Islamic organization. Widodo likely chose Amin as a running mate in a political move to pacify his country’s Muslim majority; thus, the country is grappling with politicized Islam within the highest levels of government. While JAD is just one of about 30 terrorist organizations in Indonesia that have pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, IS, or both, the country faces an uncertain future. Numerous attacks in Indonesia have not had much media attention, so the situation on the ground is more serious than this article suggests. With many experienced ISIS fighters having returned to Indonesia following the defeat of ISIS, and the country now facing politicized Islam in its presidency, crackdowns on Islamic terrorist groups will continue; however, the frequency, intensity, and pace may not be as swift as Indonesian national and international communities would like. As more attacks continue to be attributed to Indonesian-backed terrorists, the international community will likely put more and more pressure on the country to round up terrorists and stop future attacks.
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Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Robert Birsel. 2019. Indonesia says militant’s arrest reveals plots, new Islamic State links. Reuters. Accessed on August 5, 2019 from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-security/indonesia-says-militants-arrest-reveals-plots-new-islamic-state-links-idUSKCN1UI16C
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