Indonesian Govt Boosts Deployment in Poso to Hunt Terror Suspects

10, Feb 2015 | Author: Embassy of Indonesia

Source: Antaranews

Photo document of Mobile Brigade troops Indonesian National Police against unexpected pursuit of armed civilian groups in the surrounding mountain villages Patingkea Tamadue, sub-district East Lore, district of Poso, Central Sulawesi. (ANTARA/Zainuddin MN)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Following the central governments directive to crush “Islamic State members” in Indonesia, hundreds of military and police personnel are currently combing the mountainous area of Poso in Central Sulawesi, to catch armed civilians hiding there.

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo had stated earlier that the government intends to nab the Islamic State (IS) members, who have entered Poso, with the help of Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI).

The IS was formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS.

“President Jokowis instruction is to sweep clean, for which all the TNI forces have been deployed. How come (we have done) nothing against them for the last decade? Starting next month, we are going to the field and crushing (them),” Minister Kumolo had said in Papua in late December 2014.

He added that his Ministry had traced 100 foreign fighters from the IS, who have entered Poso.

“There are 100 foreigners from the IS group currently in Poso. If (they) cannot do jihad in Syria, then (they will launch) jihad in Poso,” the Minister remarked.

Kumolo, a senior politician with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), stressed that the military will intensify security measures in the border areas to prevent IS members from entering Indonesia.

The Indonesian government will not tolerate groups, such as IS, which harm national harmony and unity, he noted.

“The TNI will crush them. Every force will be deployed, including the National Police,” he added.

The Chairman of the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR), Zulkifli Hasan, has hailed the governments decision to deploy the military (TNI) and police personnel to deal with cases of terrorism in Poso.

“There are only some 20 people (terror suspects) hiding there and the TNI and police will certainly be able to overcome them,” he said during a visit to Palu, the capital of the Central Sulawesi Province, on Jan 16.

He also expressed his concern over the killing of three villagers in Tangkura on Jan 15, which is believed to have been carried out by a civilian armed group under Santosos leadership.

Hasan noted that the group, which is known as the East Indonesia Mujahidin, can be defeated through the cooperation between the TNI and police.

In response to the massive hunt, the Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), Manager Nasution said the Commission supports the fight against terrorism, but it should be implemented by upholding human rights.

Deputy Chairman of Komnas HAM Anshori Sinungan reminded the authorities that they should follow existing procedures for making arrests and should do their due diligence through prior investigation to make sure that the movement in Poso really does involve the IS.

“I think the movement is not what we imagine or similar to the one in the Middle East,” he was quoted as saying by the Republika daily on Dec 30.

Komnas HAM is of the view that the best way to address a terrorist movement is by improving public welfare and providing justice, and by not merely using weapons and arresting people.

The prolonged sectarian violence in Poso, which has almost equaled the number of Muslim and Christian population, dates back to the late 1990s. The peak was the so called, “Walisongo Islamic boarding school massacre” on May 28, 2000, when Christian militants attacked a school in Sintuwulemba, killing 165 Muslims (official figure), including children and women.

Three leaders from the local Christian militia were later convicted and executed in 2006 for crimes committed during the massacre.

Since then, a series of sectarian and violent clashes have taken place. While the police have managed to make some arrests, they have not been able to reach Santoso, who is believed to be leading the 20 members, and is the leader of the terror group reportedly hiding somewhere in a jungle.

Last year, some 23 suspected terrorists were arrested in Central Sulawesi. Two of the suspects were killed in a firefight in Poso several months ago, Central Sulawesi regional police command Spokesman Adjunct Senior Commissioner Utoro Saputro said recently.

He noted that the suspected terrorists were arrested from several locations, including Palu city, and the Moutong and Poso districts.

Some 16 terrorist attacks, in the form of bombings, shootings, killings, and an attack on the Posco police station were reportedly planned to be carried out in the region in 2014.

The regional police command of Central Sulawesi and the anti-terrorism unit of police called the Densus 88 jointly discovered the terror plans in the province.

So far, two police officers have been killed in anti-terrorism operations in the province.

The Indonesian Polices anti-terror squad Densus 88 recently gunned down a terror suspect in Kediri, East Java Province. The suspect was believed to be linked to the terror network led by Santoso.

Since August 2014, the police have detected IS activities in Central Sulawesi. They have also identified terrorist activities led by Santoso Abu Wardah, which are similar to the IS.

Based on several findings during the IS flag-raising incidents in Poso, the Chief of Central Sulawesi Police Brigadier General Ari Dono Sumanto suspects that Santosos team has joined the IS group.

Indonesian intelligence has also detected a growing incidence of recruitment drives by the IS movement in Poso, Coordinating Minister of Political, Legal and Security Affairs Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, stated.

“There are many Indonesians and foreigners, who have entered the Poso area. President Joko Widodo has ordered security institutions to anticipate IS activities, so that development efforts are not disrupted,” Tedjo remarked in December last year.

Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo recently ordered related security institutions to make efforts to stop the spread of the IS movement, which can disturb security conditions, the Minister said.

Following the intelligence report, the Ministry will coordinate with the immigration agency to monitor the movement of people entering or leaving the country.

Tedjo noted that hundreds of Indonesians have been influenced by IS. He further added that the government will investigate the case to prevent IS members from entering or leaving Indonesia.

He added that 110 foreigners have been identified as IS members in the Poso District.

“Their activities are a cause of concern for the local people. The governments of Central Sulawesi and Poso Regent have sought assistance to handle IS movement in the region,” Tedjo affirmed.

The anti-terrorism unit Detachment 88 has arrested seven people suspected of being involved in IS activities in Poso. Four of them are from Turkey.

While the hunt for these individuals is currently going on, Central Sulawesi Police Chief Brigadier General Idham Azis confirmed his readiness to hold a dialogue with the members of an armed civilian group currently hiding in the mountainous area of Poso.

“I am ready to hold a dialogue personally, without arms, and to find the right solution,” Azis stated recently. The dialogue is intended to help the group members revert to the right path and become law-abiding citizens.

“The sooner that happens, the better. Otherwise, we will keep chasing them,” remarked Azis, the former deputy head of the anti-terror Special Detachment 88 squad, in response to a question posed by the press on the timeline of the hunt.

Earlier, the Head of the National Counter-terrorism Agency (BNPT) Saud Usman Nasution had urged the public not to support the armed group, which is against the law in Poso.

The BNPT has called on the regional administration, local prominent figures, and religious leaders to play an active role in educating the public, so that they are not influenced by the groups ideology.

The agency also urged the local officials in Central Sulawesi to provide data and information regarding potential terror threats in order to promptly deal with terrorism cases.

Three residents of Lembah Napu in Poso District are still missing after being allegedly kidnapped by the armed group led by Santoso. Recently, a local inhabitant was found dead after being supposedly shot by the group.

On Jan 15, three villagers in the district of Poso, were found dead with bullet holes and knife wounds in their bodies, Poso Police Chief Adj. Sr Comr Ronny Suseno said in Palu, on Jan. 16.

He said the police are still looking for the armed gang, which is believed to have escaped to a nearby jungle. Ronny said the perpetrators are believed to be members of Santosos gang.

In the meantime, the Palu police resort will coordinate with the Palu administration and local religious leaders to carry out de-radicalization programs for jailed terrorists in the city.

“We will persuade them to live without breaking the law,” the Chief of the Palu Police Resort Adjunct Senior Commissioner Basya Radyananda said earlier this month.

A public campaign on anti-terrorism will also be conducted by local authorities in Palu.

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