Jihadism in Indonesia: Poso on the Edge

Posted in Terrorism , Broader Middle East , Asia | 25-Jan-07 | Source: International Crisis Group

Members of an Indonesian anti-terror squad take part in a raid on an Islamic militant stronghold Monday, Jan. 22, 2007 in Poso, Indonesia.

Jakarta/Brussels, 24 January 2007: Recent police raids in Poso with high casualties may have just given Indonesia’s weakened jihadi movement a new boost.

Jihadism in Indonesia: Poso on the Edge,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, follows the 22 January police action in the Central Sulawesi city that left sixteen people dead, including one policeman. The paper examines how a neighbourhood in Poso became a stronghold of the terrorist organisation, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and how a small group of men managed to terrorise the city for three years before their identities became known. The government’s new determination to crack down on violent jihadi networks in Poso is welcome, but Poso must not become the new cause celebre for the country’s mujahidin.

“There were already indications that the suspects and their sympathisers were portraying police operations as a fight against thoghut – anti-Islamic forces – in an effort to enlist other mujahidin from outside their own group”, says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “From Monday’s raid alone, they now have at least fifteen men they will almost certainly claim as martyrs”.

Just after dawn on 22 January, Indonesian police moved in on a quiet residential street in Poso to arrest a group of men, most of them local members of JI wanted for a range of bombings, beheadings, and drive-by shootings. At the end of the day, one policeman and fifteen others – most but not all of them mujahidin – were dead, and several more on both sides wounded. Some two dozen men were arrested as they tried to flee, and police operations are continuing.

These events, following eight months of efforts to persuade the suspects to surrender and a similar but less lethal 11 January raid, suggest several new risks. One is that jihadis will try to take the anti-thoghut war beyond Poso, targeting police elsewhere. Another danger is that the JI faction that considers bombings of Western targets wrong and Noordin Mohammed Top, South East Asia’s most wanted terrorist and the man believed to be behind some of Indonesia’s deadliest bombings, a deviant, will see this jihad as legitimate. Finally, it is possible some of the fugitives might try to join forces with Noordin in Java.

The Indonesian government should step back and look at how to address the broader causes of ongoing violence in Poso. The government needs to set up an independent fact-finding body composed of civilian officials, military, police, NGOs and religious leaders to examine grievances left over from Poso’s communal conflict that reached its height in 2000-2001. It should also set up a body to document the needs of those still displaced and work out an employment program to absorb the local mujahidin.

“The long-running jihad in Poso has changed, it seems, from revenge attacks against local Christians to a war against the police”, says Robert Templer, Director of Crisis Group’s Asia Program. “Even if the remaining suspects are arrested, no one should be complacent that the violence in Poso is over”.

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) 1 202 785 1601

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*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering over 50 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.