Indonesian ISIS sympathisers expected at Anti-Ahok rally on Nov 4

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims march in protest gainst Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama outside his office in Jakarta on Oct 14, 2016.
Thousands of Indonesian Muslims march in protest gainst Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama outside his office in Jakarta on Oct 14, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesian police are expecting local sympathisers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to join thousands of Muslim hardliners at a protest against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama later this week.

National Police Chief Tito Karnavian, who was speaking on the sidelines of the World Peace Forum on Wednesday (Nov 2), said the police has information of ISIS supporters from domestic extremist groups planning to join the rally on November 4. "But the question is whether they are going to commit any violence," he added.

When asked which groups these supporters were from, General Tito replied they may be from the Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) or Jemaah Ansharut Daulah militant groups in Indonesia.

The JAT is an offshoot of the Jemaah Islamiah terror network, but both organisations are linked to jailed radical ideologue Aman Abdurrahman, said to be tied to the January 14 terror attack in Jakarta.

Tens of thousands of protesters, including many from outside Jakarta, are expected to rally in the heart of Indonesia's capital for a mass march spearheaded by the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

This will be the second protest against Mr Basuki in Jakarta - the first on Oct 14 was triggered by his criticism of opponents who had cited a Quran verse to attack him. Mr Basuki, or Ahok, as he prefers to be called, is ethnic Chinese and a Christian.

President Joko Widodo has warned protesters to refrain from anarchy and also called on religious leaders and scholars in the country to unite against violence.

General Tito said that according to his knowledge, the local ISIS elements do not have plans to commit any violence, and he expects them to join the rally peacefully.

"But we are monitoring them very closely," he said. "We have got a specific unit in Detachment 88 monitoring them 24/7, just in case they are bringing any dangerous materials such as explosives."

Detachment 88, better known in Indonesia as Densus 88, is the country's elite counter-terrorism unit.

"We will capture them if they pose any threat prior to the rally, but during the rally also, we are monitoring them very closely," said General Tito. "As long as they are joining (the rally) peacefully, we are okay."

Jakarta has been on high alert ahead of the massive protest by Muslim hardliners against Ahok, who is now running for re-election.

The police has mobilised about 20,000 officers, who will be backed by at least 500 soldiers from the Indonesian military, to secure the city and to prevent any outbreak of violence during the gubernatorial elections which began last Friday (Oct 28). This after organisers of the demonstration announced that they expect up to 50,000 people to join the mass march.

aarlina@sph.com.sg