Indonesia cops to get more guns to fend off terrorist threat

Police investigators at a bus station in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta, on May 25, where two suicide bombers killed three policemen and injured more than 10 people.
Police investigators at a bus station in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta, on May 25, where two suicide bombers killed three policemen and injured more than 10 people.PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesia's national police plan to get 15,000 more pistols to ensure officers are armed and are able to protect themselves amid threats against them from terrorists.

The 375 billion rupiah (S$38 million) proposal, which Parliament approved last week, comes after at least 10 incidents of attacks on policemen by militants from domestic terror groups as well as those loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Lawmakers said the costs will be covered by the budget allocation for the police, which was increased in a bid to beef up the force for the country's war on terror and drugs.

"Terrorism is not the only reason for the additional fund allocation," Mr Muhammad Nasir Djamil told The Straits Times yesterday.

"We understand that much of the equipment and firearms used by the police are outdated, and therefore need to be replaced."

Mr Nasir, who is a ranking member of the parliamentary committee for law and security, said the annual budget for the police has been increased to almost 100 trillion rupiah, up from the 84 trillion rupiah approved earlier this year.

The latest funding bump means that the annual budget for the police has more than doubled since President Joko Widodo took office three years ago - when it was just 44 trillion rupiah - as efforts to fight terrorism intensified.

The police, which carry the lion's share of Indonesia's burden in counter-terrorism, have been under-equipped for some years.

But Mr Nasir said what is important is not just the handguns, but also the work put in by the police to detect any impending threats so that the authorities can take preemptive action.

"So what counts more are the men behind the guns."

The Straits Times understands that state-owned arms manufacturer Pindad would supply the police with some of the weapons, while the rest would be imported.

Currently, Indonesian police are issued with semi-automatic pistols from Pindad, as well as others made in Europe such as the SIG Sauer P226 from Switzerland and the Glock 29 from Austria.

Police in Indonesia have increasingly been the targets of ISIS-affiliated terrorists, who consider the officers as enemies for challenging the militants' objective of turning Indonesia into a caliphate.

There have been at least 10 attacks against the police - including a handful that resulted in officer fatalities - since 2010.

The last major incident was on June 30, when two Indonesian policemen were injured after a militant attacked them with a bayonet during Friday evening prayers at a mosque near the national police headquarters in South Jakarta.

The assailant brandished the knife and rushed towards the officers.

The two policemen were later rushed to hospital. The assailant was shot dead.

Meanwhile, on the eve of Hari Raya Aidilfitri last year, an ISIS-affiliated suicide bomber on a motorcycle, who was targeting the local police headquarters in Solo, blew himself up after he was stopped by officers from entering the compound.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesia cops to get more guns to fend off terrorist threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe