In a busy weekend, the Indonesian police anti-terror unit arrested a total of eight persons suspected of terrorist involvement. The arrests highlight the efforts being made by Jakarta to combat Islamist extremists, who have threatened to target the state itself. They came as the country prepares for the verdict against Islamist cleric and accused terrorist Abu Bakar Bashir, scheduled for 16 June.
In two different operations on 11 June, the specialist anti-terror unit of the Indonesian police force, Detachment 88 (Detasemen Khusus 88, or Densus 88), arrested eight persons in Jakarta and the Borneo province of East Kalimantan.
The Jakarta Post reported on Sunday that six people arrested in the Kemayoran district of Jakarta were allegedly planning a terrorist attack. They are suspected of being members of the Jemaah Islamiyah and Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid terrorist networks. In separate operations, two more suspects were arrested by Densus 88 across the country in East Kalimantan. On Saturday, police in Central Sulawesi province discovered three bombs behind a church in the city of Poso.
The Jakarta suspects were allegedly planning to attack the national police headquarters. Islamist extremists in Indonesia are increasingly thought to be shifting their tactics away from large-scale operations to attacks specifically focussed on the apparatus of the Indonesian state. The change comes in response to the ill will generated by the indiscriminate killing of fellow Muslims and as a supposedly more refined means of achieving the Islamist dream of a worldwide Sharia caliphate.
Established following the 2002 Bali bombings, Densus 88 plays an important role in Indonesian anti-terror efforts. Malaysian extremist Noordin Mohammad Top, one of the masterminds behind such high profile attacks as the 2003 JW Marriott hotel bombing, the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing – both in Jakarta –, the 2005 Bali bombings and the 2009 JW Marriott-Ritz-Carlton bombings, was killed by Densus 88 during a September 2009 operation in Surakarta, Central Java.
With a verdict due to be handed down against Abu Bakar Bashir on 16 June, Jakarta police are reported to be preparing 2,500 personnel for duty around the South Jakarta District Court. Bashir has been accused of planning and raising funds for an alleged terrorist training facility in Aceh province and inciting others to commit terrorism. According to the Jakarta Post, prosecutors are demanding a sentence of life imprisonment.
Leighton G. Luke
FDI Indian Ocean Research Programme