Why It Matters

Different groups, same terror aim

A police billboard showing a list of individuals wanted in relation with terrorism cases in Sulawesi, Indonesia.
A police billboard showing a list of individuals wanted in relation with terrorism cases in Sulawesi, Indonesia.PHOTO: REUTERS

The recent arrests of suspected militants planning attacks in Indonesia have revealed that the country is facing militant groups with different affiliations and skill levels - but with a common determination to kill and sow chaos.

The raids against three militant cells netted several leading figures and evidence they were grooming suicide bombers, some of whom are still at large. Two other militants with ready-to-use, high-explosive bombs managed to escape one raid and are also at large, highlighting the significant threat from militants in Indonesia, who are driven by perceived intolerance towards Muslims in some Christian-majority parts of the country and a desire to create an Islamic caliphate.

Last Wednesday, Arif Hodayatullah and an Uighur national, who was ready to be a suicide bomber, were caught in Bekasi, on the eastern outskirts of Jakarta. Evidence seized showed Arif had received funds from Bahrun Naim, a militant who went to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and who has been coordinating operations in Indonesia.

In separate arrests this month in Central Java and on the border of Central and West Java provinces, police found lower-power explosives, nails, ball bearings and a flag with writings similar to the ISIS logo, suggesting a relatively novice operation.

 

In a third series of raids in East Java's Mojokerto on Dec 19, Mohammad Choirul Anam, an experienced bomb-maker, strategist and top leader in the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiah, was arrested with two of his recruits. The cell had groomed two suicide bombers whom the police are still hunting.

The threat of terror attacks in Indonesia is clear and the government is taking it seriously. It is also using moderate Islamic organisations to campaign against violent ideology, among others. But Indonesia still lacks tough anti-terrorism laws, such as those in Australia and France, that would give the authorities more room for preventive measures, such as preventive detentions for ISIS sympathisers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'Different groups, same terror aim'. Print Edition | Subscribe